SoupBus founder says homelessness is on the rise

Ballarat's SoupBus feeds the city's most vulnerable people every night. 
PICTURE: Jeremy Bannister

Ballarat's SoupBus feeds the city's most vulnerable people every night. PICTURE: Jeremy Bannister

A BALLARAT homelessness advocate has dubbed the death of two young people in their car a "senseless tragedy" and says the city is in the midst of a housing crisis.

Ballarat SoupBus founder Craig Schepis said he and volunteers assisted hundreds of homeless people in the city a week.

The SoupBus provides an after-dark meal service of soup and bread to Ballarat's most vulnerable every night.

Mr Schepis said emergency accommodation in the region was at crisis point, forcing many people to resort to sleeping in cars, huddled behind buildings or hidden in secluded streets, away from the rest of society.

Mr Schepis' words come in the wake of the deaths of young, homeless couple and their dog who were found dead in their car, apparently killed by a gas heater they were using to keep warm.

Police said the 27-year-old man and 24-year-old woman, both from Ballarat and believed to have been living in the car, were using a butane gas heater to keep the chill away when they died.

"It is just heartbreaking," Mr Schepis said. "The isolation and vulnerability of people experiencing these situations is crippling."

Mr Schepis said the stigma attached to homelessness meant people were often plagued by shame and humiliation and the human face of the crisis remains hidden away.

"We see this every day. It happens all the time," Mr Schepis said. "People live in tragic circumstances but homelnesses continues to be socially unacceptable so it goes largely unseen. For many people emergency accommodation has become a long term means of survival. But now there just isn't enough accommodation for the demand and this is forcing people to live in their cars or anywhere they can find shelter on streets."

He said Ballarat's icy winter was leaving the city's most vulnerable cold and alone.

"Ït is a massive concern," he said. "It has been bitterly cold and you can only imagine how cold it gets a night... people have no choice but to generate heat inside of their cars to keep themselves warm."

Mr Schepis said since he started the SoupBus campaign in 2009, demand for its services had almost tripled.

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