MORE than 1200 people were counted as homeless across the Frankston and Mornington Peninsula council areas in the 2011 census.
That’s six years ago, but, sadly, the number has “increased dramatically since then”, Council to Homeless Persons CEO Jenny Smith said.
More than 2000 people sought help from homelessness services on the Mornington Peninsula last year alone. And 1807 people are waiting for public housing in Frankston.
The savageness of life for homeless women, especially, was highlighted in Carrum last week when a woman “sleeping rough” on a Nepean Highway bench was bashed by a man at about 4am. The 39-year-old suffered serious facial injuries in the unprovoked attack, Sunday 5 March. She was punched several times in the head while trying to protect herself by clinging to a street pole. She told police the man did not speak during the attack.
“We’re shocked to hear about the assault of a woman whose only crime was not having a safe place to sleep,” Ms Smith said.
“Sadly, many people experiencing homelessness are subject to violence while living in rooming houses and crisis accommodation, but these incidents are easy to ignore because they’re out of sight.”
Ms Smith said a lack of affordable housing is driving the rise in homelessness in Frankston and on the peninsula.
“Ten years ago, nearly 70 per cent of private rentals in Frankston were affordable to someone on a low income, but today just 10 per cent would be affordable,” she said.
“As people are pushed out of the private rental market, they’re ending up in rooming houses, caravan parks and crisis accommodation – or worse, on the street.”
Ms Smith said it was a fallacy to think that living “further out” meant rents would be cheaper. “As the housing crisis has taken hold, people on low incomes have fewer places they can afford to live,” she said. “The homelessness we see on the streets is just the visible symptom of a broken housing system that has squeezed out those on the lowest of incomes.”
She said no-one would choose to live on the streets, where they are vulnerable to violence, exposed to the elements and where their health is in jeopardy.
“We know how to end homelessness, and we need the political will to make it happen,” she said.
“The most important ingredient is affordable housing teamed with the appropriate supports when needed. We need to move our efforts from ‘helping the homeless’ to ‘ending homelessness’, and permanent housing is the key.”
Ms Smith said councils could not bear the burden of solving homelessness on their own.
“The root of the problem is a lack of investment in public and community housing by successive state and federal governments,” she said.
“The Victorian government has recently taken important steps to improve housing affordability and reduce homelessness, and we now look to the federal government to release a strategy for action.”
Plans to overhaul a federal funding agreement that keeps 64,000 households in public housing in Victoria have been hinted at by federal Treasurer Scott Morrison.
“This would be a dire outcome for those living in public housing, as well as those still waiting,” she said.