Crisis housing concerns

An alleged rooming house in Melbourne's north. (Supplied). 253281_02

By Alesha Capone

Homelessness workers in the northern and western suburbs say they are being “inundated” with requests for crisis accommodation.

They are calling on the state government to permanently extend the pandemic support it has provided for people sleeping rough.

At the weekend, the Northern and Western Homelessness Networks – which is made up of 50 specialist homelessness and family violence organisations – released a report titled Crisis in Crisis II: A Way Forward Report.

The report, a follow-up to a 2019 study the networks completed, was funded through the Department of Health and Human Services (now the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing).

The latest report found that rising demand for crisis accommodation and limited resources is leading to homelessness services having no choice but to house people in poor-quality and unsafe private properties.

Western Homelessness Network co-ordinator Sarah Langmore said that at present, many homeless people from the west were being accommodated in about 45 hotels, including in the city and southern suburbs.

Ms Langmore said the state government has provided increased funding to support those sleeping rough during COVID lockdowns, including ‘From Homelessness to a Home’ packages which last for 18 months.

She said that about 400 residents of the west who have received a package are residing in hotels.

“It’s a really good initiative, which we would love the government to expand,” Ms Langmore said.

Ms Langmore said that despite the increased funding, there were still issues.

“Even though there’s more money, we are still struggling to find hotels to take our referrals,” she said.

She said that often the better-quality accommodation providers wanted a “hefty bond” in addition to rent, which was too simply still too expensive.

She said that as a result, many people “are having to end up in really low-end hotels and rooming houses”.

Ms Langmore said both women and men reported feeling unsafe in these places.

“After the first report, we started boycotting the worst of the rooming houses,” she said.

“Now, there are 16 fewer rooming houses in Brimbank.”