Coming together to tackle local homelessness

Tuesday 8 December 2020

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Frankston City’s most well-known community organisations are pooling their resources and knowledge to tackle homelessness locally.

The 14 specialist groups include housing and homelessness services, health and legal services, emergency relief providers and local government.

The organisations forged the Frankston City Strategic Housing & Homelessness Alliance for a collective approach to addressing the increasing rates of homelessness across the municipality.

Alliance Chair, Dr Gillian Kay, said ABS Census data showed that homelessness in Frankston City had increased by 14.7 per cent between 2011 and 2016.

“Without the Alliance we would expect to see further increases recorded in the 2021 Census.”

Dr Kay said the Alliance welcomed last month’s Victorian Government announcement that $5.3 billion would be made available for new, affordable housing as part of the Victoria’s Big Housing Build project.

This project will see 9300 social housing dwellings and 2900 affordable housing dwellings (for first time buyers and renters) constructed across Victoria over the next four years.

“Our Alliance believes that an adequate supply of affordable and appropriate housing is the first essential step towards solving homelessness, however, we also understand that housing alone, is not the solution.”

Dr Kay said the Alliance’s first challenge would be to understand the main causes of homelessness and how it is being experienced by local people.

“That way we can create targeted solutions and bring down the numbers,” Dr Kay said.

“Ultimately, the Alliance wants to address the complete homelessness spectrum. There is the obvious, immediate need to increase affordable housing options and find secure accommodation for those without a safe place to sleep every night but there is also a need to identify those at-risk individuals and step in before homelessness occurs.”

Frankston City was identified as one of nine Victorian ‘rough sleeper hot spots’ by the Victorian Government’s Rough Sleeper Response Taskforce in 2017, yet rough sleepers only represent a small portion of those experiencing homelessness locally.

“Women and children are the most likely to experience, or be at risk of experiencing, homelessness, due to rising incidences of domestic violence. Women over 55 are an increasingly vulnerable group,” Dr Kay said.

“Often, at retirement time, women who have left paid employment to care for children over the course of their working lives, can find themselves without the same financial safety net as men and no means to bridge that gap.”

The COVID-19 pandemic is also contributing to homelessness, with more people out of work and experiencing financial distress.

Dr Kay said homelessness is often hidden from public view and extends far beyond those people who are physically sleeping on city streets.

“It can be people digging shelters for themselves in hillsides, setting up tent cities in local reserves, sleeping in cars or couch surfing with friends.

“Another hidden, at-risk group are those in unsafe living situations, like some rooming houses, where they are unlikely to want to stay for long periods but have nowhere else to go.

“Sadly even less than ideal housing situations can be financially out of reach for people living below the poverty line,” Dr Kay said, adding that introducing a coordinated local response was a significant step towards tackling the causes of homelessness in Frankston so that all of our residents could thrive.

The Frankston City Strategic Housing & Homelessness Alliance was formed following Council’s Ordinary Meeting in January 2020, where the former Council endorsed signing on as a member organisation.

Recently elected Councillor, Claire Harvey, said the new Council was equally dedicated to working closely with fellow member organisations, which were united in their determination to address homelessness.

“In partnership with other members of this important Alliance, we will work to see that everyone in our community has a roof over their heads and safe place to sleep. This is a basic human right.”

Over the last 12 months, Frankston City has delivered a number of initiatives in line with the Alliance’s mission to support people experiencing homelessness. This included joining 12 other Councils from Melbourne’s East and South East in signing the Regional Local Government Homelessness & Social Housing Charter 2020.

Council also collaborated with the Federal Government to jointly fund the $31,000 community shower and toilet which opened in central Frankston last December. This project was initiated by local not-for-profit organisation, Donation Chain.

To further support the City’ most vulnerable, Council made a $300,000 financial contribution to Community Support Frankston for emergency food and equipment to be purchased through local suppliers, as part of the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Package.

“We are looking forward to building on this work, as a member of the Frankston City Strategic Housing & Homelessness Alliance,” Cr Harvey said.

Frankston City Strategic Housing & Homelessness Alliance members:

  • Community Support Frankston
  • Peninsula Community Legal Centre
  • Peninsula Health
  • Bolton Clarke
  • Southern Homelessness Services Network
  • Launch Housing
  • The Salvation Army Homelessness – Frankston
  • Melbourne City Mission
  • NEAMI National
  • WAYSS
  • Mentis Assist
  • White Lion
  • Youth Support and Advocacy Service
  • Frankston City Council 

For more information visit: strategichomelessnessalliance.org.au  

 

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