Stefan Bradley

Not-for-profit community service providers Quantum Support Services and Uniting Gippsland continue to support those affected by the housing and homelessness crisis in Gippsland.

Quantum chief executive officer Natalie McDonald said the high cost of living, unemployment and a tough rental market were just some of the pressures affecting Gippslanders, leaving them homeless or at risk of homelessness.

“Housing options are just no longer as readily available or affordable as they were pre-2020 and we predict that this is going to continue to worsen. As a rural community we also have less resources and housing options in general,” Ms McDonald said.

“For the past two years, the state government has supported the Housing Establishment Fund with additional top ups to provide emergency motel accommodation. As of July 1 2022, this funding will revert to pre-COVID levels and we will revert to placing persons who present as experiencing homelessness with only two to three days of motel accommodation.”

Uniting Gippsland manager of child, youth and families Heidi Hunter said there was a growing shortage of affordable housing and rental properties in regional areas, including Gippsland, which is making it more challenging to find safe and secure accommodation for people in need.

“On any given night, there are people right across the Gippsland who are experiencing homelessness. Some are sleeping on the streets, going house to house ‘couch surfing’ with family or friends or are simply unable to afford rent,” Ms Hunter said.

“There are many young people, families and older people sleeping in cars or squatting or living in cold and dilapidated caravans with no running water or electricity for heat. Most have minimal possessions and funds to meet their most basic needs let alone be able to afford to break into the rental market.”

“Since July last year, 472 people from Wellington Shire have approached our homelessness entry point looking for help – 44 per cent were people who we had never seen before. The majority of people reached out to us as a result of a housing crisis, such as an eviction, but almost one in five was due to financial difficulties.

“We know how devastating it is to be without a home and we understand how much of difference having a home of their own and retaining local connections makes to somebody’s life, this is why we work closely with other support agencies and our partners in local regions to find suitable accommodation for people as close to their own community as quickly as possible.”

Ms McDonald said a sustainable funding stream was needed for social and affordable housing to address the increasing demand and the high waiting lists of those persons requiring support.

“These measures won’t solve homelessness on their own, but they could contribute greatly. An increase in support services funding would help to meet demand and enable us to provide early intervention,” she said.

“Quantum is working on bringing a youth foyer to Gippsland. This facility, identified in Infrastructure Victoria’s roadmap, Victoria’s Infrastructure Strategy 2021–2051, would give a dedicated and evidence based medium-term solution for young people.

“Further investment in short term options for youth, such as an injection of funding into Quantum’s Youth Refuge Building would also allow us to support more young people or build more refuges, effectively intervening early in the Homelessness continuum and stopping chronic homelessness throughout a person’s lifecycle.”

“Post COVID, the changing rental landscape accompanied by no movement in Centrelink benefits will mean that we will have very minimal options available. Our present exit options are extremely limited and are worsening on a daily basis.

“Quantum is aware of 17 families residing in motels across Latrobe and Baw Baw council areas. Included in those 17 families are 50 children and two unborn children.”