Wimmera homelessness crisis eases

THE Wimmera has experienced a drop in the number of people seeking homelessness support, despite a dramatic rise in figures across the state.

Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that the number of Victorians seeking assistance rose from 86,000 in 2011-12 to 92,000 in 2012-13.

Wimmera Uniting Care community programs executive manager Leeanne Thomson said the organisation’s data indicated a large reduction in the number of clients requiring housing.

She said figures dropped from 423 people in 2012 to 282 in 2013.  

“However, the number of males requiring assistance has increased from 57 per cent to 60.99 per cent,” she said.

Ms Thomson said males seeking shelter were predominantly aged between 20 and 24. 

“This has been a trend during the past two years with the main reason being a housing crisis or difficulties, rather than financial difficulties,” she said. 

Mrs Thomson said crisis payments had also dropped significantly.

“However our peak time is coming up now,” she said.

“From mid-January to March we expect to see an increase in the number of people needing housing and support.” 

The Christian Emergency Food Centre in Horsham saw a drop in the number of people needing support at Christmas.

Manager Barry Hutchinson said the number of Christmas hampers handed out dropped significantly in 2013.

“I didn’t have any calls from people needing help over Christmas,’’ he said. 

“It was a fairly quiet Christmas for us.”

Mr Hutchinson said despite the decrease in demand for hampers, the number of people who used the centre had remained steady throughout the year.

“We have about 250 to 270 people a month coming to us,” he said.

“The figures have remained fairly static.”

He said the centre was always looking for more volunteers.

“We welcome anyone of Christian denomination who would like to help,” he said.

“It would be useful if we had a few more men, particularly if they had a ute and could help us cart things around.”

Council to Homeless Persons chief executive Jenny Smith said Victorian homelessness services were doing their best to operate in a system that was not designed to end homelessness.

She said family violence remained the leading cause of homelessness, with 27 per cent of people citing it as the main reason they were seeking help.

“Also driving the growth in homelessness is a lack of affordable, appropriate housing for people on low incomes,” she said.

“The private rental market is competitive and rents are so high, people on very low incomes have almost no chance of securing affordable housing.”

Ms Smith said residents could help by donating to organisations that gave immediate assistance to people.

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