A BALLARAT homelessness advocate has dubbed the death of two young people in a 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.
Mr Schepis’ words come in the wake of the deaths of Ballarat woman Shannon Knowles, 24, and her 27-year-old partner.
The man, who The Courier has chosen not to identify, was apparently living in his car with his dog.
The couple were believed to have been killed by a gas heater they were using to keep warm.
“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 remained hidden away.
“People live in tragic circumstances but homelessness 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.
“It 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.”