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Homelessness across Victoria surges by up to 435 per cent in some areas

The housing crisis continues to hit our most vulnerable people, with a new report finding homelessness has increased 435 per cent in some parts of Victoria.

The report from Council to Homeless Persons (CHP), found that across the state, homelessness rose 24 per cent between 2016 and 2021.

Homelessness in the Geelong and Surf Coast electorate of South Barwon rose a massive 435 per cent over five years, in part driven by more accurate rooming house data.

Homelessness doubled across Melton (134 per cent increase), Eureka (113 per cent), Pakenham (113 per cent), Cranbourne (111 per cent), Bendigo East (107 per cent) and Oakleigh (101 per cent).

Mildura (96 per cent), Box Hill (88 per cent) and Morwell (85 per cent) rounded out the top 10 electorates where homelessness increased most sharply.

CHP Chief Executive Officer Deborah Di Natale said the data underscored the urgent need for targeted, substantial investment in social housing and homelessness supports across Victoria.

“We are witnessing a clear and alarming escalation in homelessness in Victoria, highlighting a picture of stark inequality across both metropolitan and regional areas,” Ms Di Natale said.

The report found 30,660 people are homeless on any given night in Victoria, representing
47.1 people per 10,000 Victorians.

The figures include people living in their cars or on the street, people in boarding houses, temporary accommodation, or accommodation for the homeless and people in severely overcrowded dwellings.

Across South Barwon, the number of people living in boarding (rooming) houses is 10 times higher than reported in 2016 and while there has been a decrease in people sleeping rough, the number of people living in temporary settings (such as hotel accommodation during COVID) is 12 times higher than reported in 2016.

In Melton, the number of people living in boarding (rooming) houses is six times higher than reported in 2016 and the number of people living in severely overcrowded dwellings is four times higher than reported in 2016.

While in Eureka, the number of people living in boarding (rooming) houses is nearly five times higher than reported in 2016.

Rough sleeping held steady, yet with 35 individuals in temporary lodgings rough sleeping could have been higher without the Covid response that put people who were homeless into hotel accommodation.

The report also found, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander homelessness in Victoria increased 42 per cent to 1109 people over the five years between Censuses.

The rate of homelessness for children and young people aged 12-24 years also grew by 15 per cent, while the rate of homelessness for people over 55 years grew by three per cent.

While there continues to be more men than women experiencing homelessness, women’s homelessness grew more than for men.

CHP is calling on the Victorian Government to address the crisis by committing to build at least 60,000 social housing properties over the next decade including use of inclusionary zoning.

“This investment is not just necessary, it’s critical to stemming the tide of homelessness,” Ms Di Natale said.

CHP has also urged the State Government to directly target investment into homelessness supports, including housing first programs, which provide housing alongside wraparound support.

“We can’t stand by and watch as this crisis continues to unfold. It’s time to act decisively and make a commitment that will lead to real, lasting change,” Ms Di Natale said.

“We’re hopeful the Victorian Government wants to address homelessness head-on.”

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Rowan Crosby

Rowan Crosby is a senior journalist at Elite Agent specialising in finance and real estate.