20th February 2024 12:21
Victorian Legislative Council, Melbourne

Rachel PAYNE (South-Eastern Metropolitan) (12:21): 

My question is for the Minister for Housing, Minister Shing. Forty-four years – that is the average age of death for homeless people in this country, almost 40 years lower than the average Australian. This was the finding from Guardian Australia’s investigation into 10 years worth of coronial death notifications where homelessness was documented. These premature deaths reflect a population who are so often overlooked and who must deal with systemic failures in essential services like health, justice and housing.

When you are struggling to find somewhere safe to sleep, everything else becomes secondary and good health especially becomes a luxury. So my question is: would the minister consider prioritising access to social housing for those with chronic health conditions and at risk of premature death?

Harriet SHING (Eastern Victoria – Minister for Housing, Minister for Water, Minister for Equality) (12:21): 

Thank you, Ms Payne, for your question and for your ongoing interest in the often very complex causes of and contributors to homelessness and rough sleeping.

It is really important that when we talk about rough sleeping and homelessness we understand the causes and the contributing factors that do often exacerbate a situation of vulnerable or insecure housing, whether that is a dependency on alcohol or other drugs, including prescription and non-prescription medication; challenges around mobility; being a victim or survivor of family violence; being within our youth cohort; or being somebody who is older.

We know that the needs and the priorities of people in addressing root causes of homelessness are many and varied and that in order to provide support for people to move from precarious situations – whether they are accessing homelessness supports, in crisis accommodation, in temporary housing or indeed moving through to the social housing system – it takes not just a roof over people’s heads; it requires programs and services and supports.

One of the things that we are doing is investing in supports to provide measures of financial assistance to people, as well as a fixed address and making sure that we can respond to growth in demand.

Every year we see around 100,000 people accessing homelessness supports. In 2022–23, for example, there were around 40,900 people within that list who had experienced family violence; around 9000 people who were sleeping rough or in an inadequate dwelling when they first presented to services; around 11,200 people aged between 15 and 24 – within that age demographic you have referred to – presenting alone to services; and then also just under 12,000 people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity and community.

The Report on Government Services, which has been referred to a number of times in this house, indicates that we have here in Victoria supported the largest number of homelessness support services and expenditure in comparison to other jurisdictions. Does that mean that we have done all we need to do?

No. Does that mean that we understand what does work and what can work to alleviate those pressures? Yes. For every number that I refer to in these statistics and for the statistics that you have outlined in your question we have a person and a family and a story and also an awful lot of potential and opportunity for people to secure their own autonomy and their own prospects.

We have got new housing programs, such as Housing First. We have got the Sacred Heart Mission’s new Campus of Care. We have got a range of supports in From Homelessness to a Home programs. It is about making sure that they work together across a whole-of-government approach in order to develop those things, including with local or federal government as required.

Rachel PAYNE (South-Eastern Metropolitan) (12:25): 

I thank the minister for her detailed response. By way of supplementary, housing is just one part of the essential services people need to get back on their feet, and as you have mentioned, wraparound services that focus on things like mental health, family violence, youth services, rehabilitation, justice and education can be extremely beneficial.

Will the minister commit to ensuring that social housing developments pursue a wraparound model that integrates support services wherever possible?

Harriet SHING (Eastern Victoria – Minister for Housing, Minister for Water, Minister for Equality) (12:25): 

Thank you, Ms Payne, for that supplementary question. The short answer is yes. We are working on a range of programs and initiatives, including the Housing First principles. I am very happy to take you through that work as it relates to providing that support to transition through to stable housing and to make sure that we have got that model of care around Homes First, which is intended to commence from about the middle of this year and to build on existing frameworks for support.

That model itself, by way of an example, will provide 500 households with priority access to social housing and three years of wraparound support. That builds on the success of From Homelessness to a Home, which has allocated around 1845 housing and support packages since 2020, and that assists people to recover from homelessness. We also recognise that preventing homelessness is a really important part of this work, and that is where the housing statement and being able to build, for example, a granny flat on a home block of at least 300 metres is just one of the examples to take pressure off the system.


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