Wimmera Uniting Care lobbies for more housing options

Wimmera Uniting Care wants more housing options for the region’s homeless people. Picture: KATE HEALY

Wimmera Uniting Care wants more housing options for the region’s homeless people. Picture: KATE HEALY

WIMMERA Uniting Care is lobbying for more housing options for the region’s homeless people.

Housing program leader Sue Martin said options for transitional and crisis accommodation in the Wimmera were limited.

“The only outcomes in the Wimmera are public housing and private rental accommodation, which really restricts people,” she said.

“Private rental is quite often unobtainable or unaffordable.”

She said the region’s transitional properties often carried the strain of the situation.

“We have three crisis properties in the Wimmera and 39 transitional properties,” she said.

“Transitional properties are 13-week tenancies, and crisis properties are only seven to 14 days.

“They are spread between Horsham, Ararat, Stawell, St Arnaud, Warracknabeal and Nhill.”

Miss Martin said it was not uncommon for people to stay in transitional housing for more than 13 weeks because of a lack of alternative options.

“The average transitional tenancy time is generally six to 12 months, usually pushing out to 12 months,” she said.

“We’ve actually had a person in there for two years where we haven’t been able to find a sustainable and affordable outcome.

“Ballarat and Melbourne have rooming houses and boarding houses available, but as soon as you hit Ararat, there are no options.”

She said there was a need for rooming houses in the Wimmera, which would assist with low-income, long-term residents.

Miss Martin said she had suggested the idea to the Department of Human Services’ Victorian Homelessness Action Plan System Reform.

The need to bolster accommodation options for low-income, long-term residents in the Wimmera has been emphasised by a change to the number of transitional housing and support packages Wimmera Uniting Care is required to offer each year.

“Our targets have almost doubled, from 70 tenancies per year to 139 transitional tenancies with support,” Miss Martin said.

“To meet this target, I would be restricted to 13-week tenancies.

“If there are no other housing options, I would possibly be forced to put those people back out on the street or into a similar homelessness situation.

“It concerns me that the focus seems to be on targets-outputs that will affect our future funding and not on outcomes for people experiencing homelessness.”

Wimmera Uniting Care acts as the entry point for homelessness services throughout the region.

It assesses each person seeking help and refers them to support workers such as the Salvation Army and Grampians Community Health based on their needs.

“Those agencies usually have a waiting list, because they are over-demand as well,” Miss Martin said.

“The supports can have at least a two-week waiting list before they have capacity to pick up referrals.”

The entry point arrangement has been in place for about four years.

Wimmera Uniting Care has spent almost $74,000 on emergency and transitional accommodation for Wimmera people so far this financial year.

In that time, it has added about 21 new people a month to its client database and provided financial assistance for housing about 18 times a month.

“We have also given out seven swags to people who haven’t had any other options,” Miss Martin said.

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