HOMELESSNESS is surging with a 17 per cent increase in Frankston and a 10 per cent increase on the Mornington Peninsula in the five years from the 2011-16 census nights.
Figures released by the Council to Homeless Persons show 546 people experienced homelessness in Frankston last year compared to 465 in 2011. On the Mornington Peninsula 298 people were homeless last year compared to 272 in 2011.
State-wide, the census data shows that 24,817 Victorians were homeless in 2016 – up from 22,306 in 2011.
SalvoCare Eastern Rosebud manager Loretta Buckley said the stigma of homelessness meant many people could not bring themselves to seek help even though they were experiencing difficulties.
“It’s very hard for some people to admit they don’t have a home, or that they can’t afford the rent after losing their job, or that they have been forced to leave home because of domestic violence and now don’t have money,” she said.
“There’s been an increase in female homelessness across the board, possibly with more women feeling they can take positive action against domestic violence by moving out – many taking their children with them.
“Also, we have an increasing aged population on the Mornington Peninsula with more elderly residents looking for public housing after a rise in private rents. Everyone has their own circumstances: perhaps their partner has gone into a nursing home and they simply can’t afford to live where they are.”
The Frankston and Mornington Peninsula figures straddle the state average of an 11 per cent rise in homelessness, with the peak body saying the figures are a “wake-up call”.
CEO Jenny Smith has urged the federal government to release a housing and homelessness plan.
“The increase … is no surprise given that, as a country, we’ve failed to tackle the housing affordability crisis, and our homelessness services continue to be chronically underfunded,” she said.
“The census simply puts a number to what Victorian homelessness services have long been reporting – that they’re groaning under the weight of demand.”
The service has called on the state government to fund 14,500 more social housing properties – tripling the commitment previously made.
Ms Buckley said the nearest crisis accommodation for those in need in Frankston or on the Mornington Peninsula was at Dandenong – a two-hour ride on public transport for those with children at schools on the southern peninsula, or with shared-care arrangements meaning they had to live nearby.
SalvoCare also assists with public housing application forms. “The problem is that there is a shortage of affordable public housing,” Ms Buckley said. “Those on a Newstart allowance can only really afford beds in rooming houses, which have their own assorted problems.”