Call to fund inquiry recommendations

(Tom Rumble/Unsplash)

Liam McNally

The state government has tabled its response to a three-year-old inquiry in homelessness in Victoria, as Melton council experiments with a new program to manage homelessness locally.

In March 2021 the state government finished its parliamentary inquiry into homelessness in Victoria, which found a homelessness sector “overwhelmed” and made 51 recommendations to address the issue.

The state government, which was supposed to reply to the recommendations within six months, responded on February 21.

The report said there were 24,817 homeless people in Victoria in 2016. Since the release of the report the 2021 Census recorded a 24 per cent rise to more than 30,000 Victorians.

In the years since 2021, Star Weekly has also heard from multiple homelessness services that demand for homelessness services has increased sharply with the economic down-turn post-COVID.

To help address rising homelessness locally, Melton council launched its Rough Sleepers Program.

Melton council Community Care and Active Living manager Coral Crameri said the initiative is a partnership between Council, Melbourne City Mission, IPC Health and Western Metro Homelessness (Salvation Army).

“Members of the public can notify council about people sleeping rough, enabling our teams to coordinate with partner organisations to provide an appropriate and holistic outreach response,” she said.

“Since its rollout, Council has seen an increase in the number of rough sleeping notifications. The initiative’s primary focus is to establish a consistent approach in supporting individuals who are sleeping rough.”

Of the inquiry’s 51 recommendations, the government supported 45 fully or in-principle, committed to reviewing four and rejected two.

The Council to Homeless Persons (CHP) said the government’s centrepiece Housing Statement policy, released last year, did not address the committee’s recommendations, and it needs to be revised to fully fund the inquiry’s recommendations.

CHP chief executive Deborah Di Natale said money is the missing ingredient in this overdue response to critical recommendations that will reduce homelessness in Victoria.

“We need an iron-clad commitment that this year’s state budget will include the full amount needed to implement these reforms,” she said.

“In its response to the inquiry, the government has rightly pointed out some of the excellent homelessness initiatives that have been funded.

“But in the three long years since the inquiry, the most serious housing crisis in living memory has only worsened.”