HOMELESS support services are calling on the state government to build crisis accommodation on the Mornington Peninsula as more than 1000 people search for somewhere safe to sleep every night.
Community Information Support Victoria – which has support centres in Rosebud, Mornington and Hastings – called crisis talks on Friday (31 March), with centres facing unprecedented demand and workers worried about the health and safety of clients coming into colder weather.
Southern Peninsula Community Support CEO Jeremy Maxwell said the need for accommodation and support services had increased by 25 per cent in the past 12 months.
He said that while the homelessness issue wasn’t new, support services had to “keep the conversation going” so governments don’t think people the problem has gone away.
“There has been an exponential jump in demand, with 233 attending our Rosebud service centre in March alone,” he said.
“We [support services] are all wondering what the future holds, because there has been little movement in this area. So far, we have had no indication from the state government – which has primary responsibility for housing and homelessness – that crisis accommodation is in their plans.
“As we get closer to winter, demand grows as some of the other services will drop off and we have to meet the need – if this continues, will could be forced to say, ‘sorry, we can’t help’.”
Maxwell said the peninsula had been left behind in terms of government money.
“If you go to Melbourne or out west there are crisis beds, we do not have one crisis bed on the peninsula,” he said.
“We already have volunteers who have put their hands up ready to staff a crisis centre, we have toilets and showers we can move around, we just don’t have the venue.”
Every year the centre provides hundreds of tents to the homeless, with many camping on foreshores where they are supported by the SPLASH program (shower and laundry).
Mornington Peninsula Shire mayor Cr Steve Holland supported calls for more government assistance and said there were nearly 4000 residents on the public housing waiting lists.
“We have also called on the government to consider policy levers and measures to balance short and long stay rentals and to provide urgent investment in social and affordable housing on the peninsula. We are not getting our fair share of the Big Build funding for public housing.”
Maxwell said community support services would also like to see state laws changed to allow granny flat accommodation on existing properties, and the removal of tax concessions for Airbnb properties.
“Negative gearing was originally introduced so investors could invest in housing, not holiday accommodation, so that needs to change,” Maxwell said.
Ahead of the 2023–24 state budget announcements in May, the Council to Homeless Persons released its state budget submission for investments it wants to take place within a ten-year strategy to “end homelessness in Victoria”.
The CHP says more social and affordable housing is the key, along with addressing the “drivers of homelessness” – poverty, family violence, discrimination and supply of affordable housing.
It is calling on the state government to invest an additional $47.5 million in 2023-24 ($220.6 million over four years) to continue and grow the From Homeless to a Home program to sustain people in accommodation, and $3.6 million over four years to employ more support workers to deliver “evidence-informed” responses to homelessness.
The Department of Families, Fairness and Housing was contacted for comment.