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Motels and misery

Melbourne is experiencing a housing crisis.

As a result, the numbers of people who have no home are increasing. When people have nowhere to live, they often look to the homelessness service system for urgent support. Unfortunately, the Homelessness Service System across Victoria only has access to 423 government funded crisis beds. To make up a significant shortfall in crisis accommodation homelessness services utilise low end hotels and private rooming houses. This accommodation is extremely unsafe and typically of a very poor standard.

The attacged report has been prepared by the Northern and Western Homelessness Networks in response to consumer feedback that highlights the crisis in crisis accommodation in Melbourne’s north and west. This report highlights the appalling conditions that people are required to live in while they wait for more secure accommodation to become available, if at all.

As a sector we are no longer prepared to refer people to substandard crisis accommodation, nor are we willing to participate in continuing to harm vulnerable people seeking our assistance.

Crisis Accommodation Options Project

The Crisis Accommodation Options Project was funded by the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (the Department), previously the Department of Health and Human Services, to further explore the issue of emergency accommodation, to map the current system, to identify and cost alternative accommodation options and to make recommendations on potential changes to the use of HEF/brokerage to maximise the use of current investment in the North and West to increase the quality of crisis accommodation for people experiencing homelessness. The Project has provided the Sector with the opportunity to explore the use of the Housing Establishment Fund (HEF) within the context of the current housing market; the Sector’s reliance on the private accommodation Sector; and the client experience of HEF in greater detail. The NWLASNs would like to thank the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing for their support throughout the project.

The Report includes 24 recommendations for consideration by government and the homelessness sector.

Overall, the Crisis Accommodation Options Project has reinforced the final conclusions of the Crisis in Crisis report:

  • it is unrealistic to expect a private, for profit sector to appropriately respond to the needs of those in crisis and that the Sector’s reliance on low end accommodation, which is rated as ‘inappropriate and unsafe’, is exacerbating the trauma experienced by consumers; and that
  • provision of emergency accommodation, particularly in the absence of sufficient support capacity, contributes to ‘churn’ amongst those experiencing homelessness and is not contributing the achievement of appropriate long-term housing outcomes.

 

Embargo commences

As of 1st March 2020, homelessness services in Melbourne's north and west will not be referring to the worst private rooming houses. See an information sheet attached. 

Mary Gearin, ABC News, covered this action in an ABC new report and online. It's a powerful article: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-01/worst-housing-providers-boycotted-by-melbourne-homelessness-age/12008182.

You can view the news items at: Watching ABC News VIC Sunday 1/3/2020 in iview
https://iview.abc.net.au/show/abc-news-vic/series/0/video/NU2031V009S00

Click on 1/3/20 and then the item is 9 minutes and 12 seconds in to the bulletin.

Congratulations to Jade Blakkarly, Vicky Sutton and Catherine Dyer for representing the Sector so well.

The Age: No more referrals to dodgy crisis housing, warn homelessness services

See the article by Miki Perkins, writing in The Age today (15/2/19). 

"We’re not funded to create harm, we’re funded to help people. What we’re saying is that we need to stop doing this."

Click here for the full article: https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/no-more-referrals-to-dodgy-crisis-housing-warn-homelessness-services-20190214-p50xu7.html

ABC news reports on A Crisis in Crisis

See the ABC News item: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-15/family-violence-victims-sent-to-unsafe-motels-in-housing-crisis/10793992

ABC News interviews Kathy who became homeless through no fault of her own. For 18 months she was forced to move between hotels and rooming houses.  At one point homelessness services had no option but to refer her to a hotel room that had no sheets, blankets or pillows. Kathy and her partner were forced to sleep on a filthy, stained mattress with their clothes for warmth - and this cost the community $120/night.  Surely we can do better as a community to support vulnerable people. 

Consumer feedback and the Crisis in crisis launch

Attached is the speech by George Hatvani, Launch Housing and the Consumer Participation Working Group, launching the "Crisis in Crisis" report.

 

Media release

Attached is a media release introducing the "Crisis in Crisis" report.

Thank you to Uncle Jack Charles

The Northern and Western Homelessness Networks were extremely privileged to have Uncle Jack Charles provide a Welcome to Country at the launch of the 'Crisis in Crisis' report. Uncle Jack reminded us how long dingy rooming houses have been a problem in Melbourne. 

Consumer feedback

Since 2011, the Consumer Participation Working Group of the Northern and Western Homelessness Networks has run an annual consumer system survey across the north and west region. Each year we have asked people who use our services what they think of our system and what needs to change. Since 2011 over 1300 people have taken the time to tell us something of their experience.

Some have been short and to the point, others long and detailed in their pain and anguish. Most have reflected on how much they value the help and the efforts of their workers and the community we represent on their behalf. But, not all of it was positive.

We have learnt a lot, some things we knew, others we suspected, many shocked us. 

One thing we knew because our workers kept telling us.

Victoria has only 423 Government funded crisis beds – these are provided by specialist services, they are staffed 24 hours a day, with a range of other services such as nurses, lawyers, AOD and mental health specialists available.

They provide case management and the emotional support and hope needed for people to start the journey out of homelessness or to gain some respite when their experience has just been too overwhelming. However, with targeted stays of around 8 weeks each that works out to around 7 people per each bed per year.

 

And yet last year we needed to find 9,000 instances of accommodation in addition to those who were able to access these government funded beds.

In 2017 we asked consumers to tell us about their experience of staying in these government funded crisis accommodation services and of the many other forms of private accommodaiton that services have no option but to use when those 423 government funded beds are full. 

The consumer feedback was devastated.  Attached is a powerpoint highlighting some of the feedback. 

Events