Homeless shelters struggle to meet demand in Melton

Homelessness in Melbourne’s CBD is “only the tip of the iceberg”, with thousands of people in the suburbs sleeping rough, a western suburbs agency has reported.

There are 75 families urgently waiting for help to find a home in Melton, Western Homelessness Network co-ordinator Sarah Langmore said.

In the past financial year, 529 Melton families have sought help for homelessness – of these, 156 were single people, 307 were single parents with children, 42 were couples and 83 were aged 24 and younger.

“Our services have been finding an increase in the number of families experiencing homelessness, with a very high number of young people experiencing homelessness,” Ms Langmore said.

“What’s happening in the CBD is just one side of the homelessness crisis … where we have hundreds in the CBD, we have thousands in the suburbs often couch-surfing, living in garages.”

Ms Langmore said housing affordability was one of the biggest issues driving homelessness, with services not equipped to deal with the crisis.

There are 24,000 public housing units across the north-west suburbs, with another 19,000 families on the waiting list, Ms Langmore said.

“We don’t have enough housing. All we can offer is a few nights accommodation in substandard [places] – hotels where families are mixing with other people, can’t cook their own meals – with no end in sight,” she said.

Ms Langmore hopes the Census data will “prove” what agencies are saying about homelessness, and encourage governments to acknowledge affordable housing as a “key social issue”.

Umbrella agency North and West Homelessness Networks last week called for an end to “Band-Aiding homelessness” with inadequate funding and short-term solutions.

“We need governments, the business sector and the community to act now,” it stated, calling for legislation to mandate 20 per cent of new developments as social housing.

“This will quickly provide an increase in housing stock that we so desperately need.”