13 Councils unify to tackle homelessness

Published on 01 September 2020

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Thirteen Councils representing two million residents in Melbourne’s east and south east have joined together in a unified voice calling for urgent action for more social housing* to end homelessness.

They want more housing as the first step to address the often complex social and health needs of the region’s most vulnerable community members.

Providing a safe home first, as part of a broader social housing framework, is the way to stem the increase in homelessness. Only then can the compounding set of circumstances which leads to homelessness be properly addressed to enable better outcomes for vulnerable people facing extreme adversity.

Homelessness is more likely to affect those most vulnerable in our society including women and children fleeing family violence, people with a disability, people living with a mental health condition, people living in poverty and marginalised groups.

The alliance of Councils have adopted a Charter to guide this campaign. The Regional Local Government Homelessness & Social Housing Charter 2020 was determined following a forum of CEOs and senior staff from all Councils, initiated by Monash Council in November 2019 and attended by housing providers, peak bodies and state government. Nova, a homelessness advocate who has a lived experience of homelessness as a result of family violence, shared her powerful and moving story with forum attendees.

The forum’s focus was informed by research Monash Council commissioned through the Council to Homeless Persons, ‘Making a Difference – effective local government responses to homelessness.’ This research identifies that the single most powerful way Councils can contribute to preventing and ending homelessness is to advocate for the increased supply of social housing across Victoria.

The Regional Local Government Homelessness & Social Housing Charter 2020 prioritises three regional commitments which the 13 Councils will act on:

• Work in partnership with federal and state government, public and private sector partners in a coordinated approach to deliver meaningful outcomes to increase the provision of social housing and respond to homelessness in east and south east Melbourne

• Scope land within each LGA that has the potential to be re-purposed for adaptable housing needs

• Advocate together for inclusive housing growth including mandatory inclusionary zoning

Yarra Ranges Mayor, Richard Higgins said that councils are often the first to respond to people experiencing homelessness, an issue that has been on the increase since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“The pandemic has put more people into the vulnerable and ‘at risk’ category, especially those who have been experiencing family violence, or those on low incomes,” Cr Higgins said.

“For many, this may be the first time that they’ve been put into a crisis situation due to job loss or even loss of their homes due to the pandemic.

“Everyone deserves to have a safe, comfortable place that they can call home.

“The Councils that have come together to create this homelessness charter are committed to working hard to see a change in social housing, which has never been more important than right now.”

The Local Government areas that form this collective are:

City of Casey, City of Cardinia, Frankston City Council, City of Greater Dandenong, Knox City Council, City of Kingston, Manningham City Council, City of Monash, Maroondah City Council, Mornington Peninsula Shire, City of Whitehorse, Yarra Ranges Council and Bayside Council.

This group is supported by Eastern Affordable Housing Alliance [EAHA], Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV), Eastern Region Group of Councils [ERG] and the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS).

View the campaign forum, read the charter and hear homelessness advocate Nova share her powerful story at www.monash.vic.gov.au/homelessness

* Social housing refers to housing owned either by the State Government or by not-for-profit community housing providers that is rented to low income households at either 25% (public housing) or 30% (community housing) of household income.

Yarra Ranges Council also recently endorsed the Guiding Principles on Housing and Homelessness, developed to outline Council’s role in addressing the impact of the lack of affordable and appropriate housing in Yarra Ranges.

Homelessness takes many forms in Yarra Ranges, from young people couch surfing, people living in insecure housing, people sleeping in cars or sleeping rough.

There are also many households experiencing mortgage or housing stress – paying too much of their income on household costs.

The principles set out how Council will work in partnership with the community, other levels of Government, the housing and private sectors to address homelessness.

The principles recognise the urgency and extent of homelessness in the region, as well as housing needs in Yarra Ranges and the harm that lack of affordable housing has on people in lower incomes and, as a result, the wider community.