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Vicar's Musings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

29 April, 2018

Today's Musings are the third in a series on Homelessness. While I was on annual leave this past week, a parishioner forwarded this Guardian article, which paints a sad picture but gives a wider understanding of the reasons for the surge in people calling on our homelessness services at St Peter's that we are currently experiencing.

"'It's a devastating area': how Melbourne lost its last refuge for the vulnerable"
by Christopher Knaus and Nick Evershed.
Census data shows significant increases in homelessness rates in Footscray, Sunshine and Laverton. The western suburbs were once Melbourne's last bastion of affordability. A refuge for the city's vulnerable, where the unemployed and lowest-paid could still put a roof over their head. Now, each morning, lines of rough sleepers and the hidden homeless spill out the doors of local access centres, waiting to be triaged and linked with housing support.

Those in line play a cruel game of chance. Help is prioritised to the worst crises but there are rarely enough beds or appointments with support providers to go around. "If you can get through the whole line and everyone gets an appointment, that's a good day," one homelessness support worker said, speaking to the Guardian anonymously. "And that maybe happens once every two to three weeks."

Hotels refuse to take clients when homelessness services call. Many real estate agents won't touch applications from those on welfare and the wait for public housing can stretch out for years. Often, support workers say they have little choice but to send people to the unstaffed, unregulated private rooming houses that have flourished in the area, run by unscrupulous landlords who allow drug use and violence to go unchecked. Those who miss out simply come back tomorrow, to try their luck again ....

The forces driving homelessness in Melbourne's west are not unique. But the situation begs a question that must be asked in all of Australia's major cities. Where do the poorest go when even the most affordable rents rise beyond their means, the social housing supply fails to keep up with demand and funding for crisis accommodation remains stagnant? Across Australia, the census figures showed an overall increase of 4.6% in the rate of homelessness in the past five years. There were about 116,000 people experiencing homelessness on census night, or about 50 for every 10,000 people. That was up from 102,439 in 2011. One in four were aged between 20 and 30 years. About 70% of young people experiencing homelessness had originally left home to escape family violence.

"Steven" [not his real name] aged 26, has been couch-surfing and in rooming houses for years in the area around Sunshine. He left school at age of 15 for a mechanics course but experienced mental health and drug issues and could not hold the job. Violence at his home saw his parents take out an intervention order, he said, preventing him from going home. "It's not like I had to sleep on the street in the city," he said. "I've always had a friend or something, a house I can go to, someone saying 'You're welcome'. The community is pretty willing to help. If I could get a job, I'd get a job. But you have to have a reliance on someone giving you the job and they have got to be able to rely on you. Once you fall out of touch with your friends you start to make your own pattern, I guess, hanging around with your friends again and your pattern either gets worse or it gets better, depending on who you hang around with."

For the full article see:

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

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