Homeless services at ’breaking point’

Kirrip Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Peter Webster. (Jacob Pattison) 342893_01

Liam McNally

A rental crisis and rising living costs are pushing housing services in the west to “breaking point” according to Kirrip Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Peter Webster.

A Council to Homeless Persons (CHP) report in December said Aboriginal homelessness in Victoria is at record levels and Mr Webster said the issue is worsening in Melton.

“We have seen a large increase in the calls for assistance with housing, from rental assistance to community going without food so they can pay the rent,” he said.

“This has also been seen in crisis housing, the cost of putting a person into a motel over a weekend or just over night so they are not on the street is getting harder… services are at breaking point with little or no funds to pay for emergency accommodation.”

Mr Webster said to help address the issue in Melton, Kirrip has submitted a funding proposal to the government to purchase a property that it hopes to use as its own crisis accommodation centre.

“[Kirrip providing crisis accommodation] will allow our partner services, [such as the] Salvation Army, time to get a more permanent solution,” he said.

“During this time we can assist with other needs such as connection to culture, food support through our foodbank, counselling services and advocacy with any other need.”

The CHP report said Aboriginal providers receive three per cent of Victoria’s overall homelessness funding despite representing 12 per cent of all people accessing homelessness services.

As Kirrip awaits a response to its funding application, Mr Webster said services trying to provide solutions with what they have currently is like “learning to swim against the current”.

“It is extremely sad that in 2024, we still have people homeless. Other countries have solved this yet we still struggle,” he said.

“We are still seeing parents [and] grandparents living in cars or under bridges, alongside rubbish bins. This should not be allowed and we as a nation should be ashamed, the organisations out there are working hard to support people living rough but it’s like learning to swim against a current.

“Homelessness affects our justice system, our kids attending school, these are all connected and the dollars that the government could save by working harder to fix this problem would have a much larger effect on the health, education and wellbeing for all Australians.”