'Once-in-lifetime housing crisis' engulfing Vic - triSearch

‘Once-in-lifetime housing crisis’ engulfing Vic

Victoria’s peak homelessness body has criticised the government for cutting homelessness programs in the middle of a “once-in-a-lifetime housing crisis”.

A program designed to provide homes to rough sleepers in Victoria during the COVID-19 pandemic will be rolled back despite a “once-in-a-lifetime housing crisis”.

The From Homelessness to a Home (H2H) program was funded as an emergency management response during the pandemic and Melbourne’s rolling lockdowns. 

It helped 1845 people who were staying in emergency hotels find stable, medium and long-term housing, and supported them to establish and sustain their new homes.

The state government announced last year it had set aside $67.6 million to embed a Housing First response for people experiencing chronic homelessness as a core response to the social problem.

They said it would enable people to better access support and for more households to access the program. 

That new approach, to be known as Homes First, is expected to use knowledge gained from the H2H program and will receive $12 million annually, supporting 500 people over the next three years. 

Victoria’s peak homelessness body doesn’t understand why a program with a 90 per cent success rate would be dumped in favour of something else. 

In its budget submission released on Monday, Council to Homeless Persons expressed concern that funding for initiatives like H2H could be reduced by 75 per cent in the upcoming budget.

The council is calling for $101.3 million in 2024/25 and $423.8 million over four years to expand Victoria’s Housing First programs to 3800 places. 

The peak body’s chief executive Deborah Di Natale urged the government to lock in the future of Housing First programs. 

“It’s clear from evidence on the ground that From Homelessness to a Home is having its funding quietly slashed despite its incredible success,” she said. 

“For some people, these programs have ended years of rough sleeping and completely changed lives through combining housing with wraparound support.”

Victoria could not afford homelessness program cuts while there’s a “once-in-a-lifetime housing crisis engulfing the state”, she said. 

A Victorian government spokesperson said the Homes First program will ensure 500 people over the next three years receive access to long-term housing and support based on Housing First best practices.

“In addition to Homes First, we have invested in eight permanent supportive housing facilities with onsite support to ensure that people who require more support to maintain housing receive it,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Supportive housing facilities are already operating in Melbourne, Carlton, Dandenong and Seddon. 

Two others are under construction in Melbourne and St Kilda, and two will be built in regional Victoria. 

The spokesperson said the facilities are more intensive than those in H2H and the new ones will assist another 300 people with permanent housing and round-the-clock support.

Opposition Leader John Pesutto said news of funding cuts to H2H ahead of the budget meant no one was safe. 

“The Homelessness to a Home program serves many people who are doing it tough and need support – and it has a 90 per cent strike rate,” Mr Pesutto told reporters. 

“And yet, programs like this that help our most vulnerable are on the chopping block … no one of us will be spared.”

Victoria’s budget is expected to be handed down on May 7. 

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