At least 75 people are sleeping rough in Ballarat every night.
That’s not counting the up to 400 people sleeping in insecure crisis accommodation or the 70 families waiting for housing each day. The statistics paint a harrowing picture of Ballarat’s growing scourge of homelessness.
UnitingCare chief executive Carolyn Barrie said soaring rates of family violence, unemployment, drug use, alcoholism, a dire housing shortage and lack of access to crisis accommodation were all contributing factors.
One in four people reaching out for help were under the age 25.
“When you start talking about homelessness most people think of the older chap on a park bench but that is absolutely not correct,” Ms Barrie said. “Of the numbers who sought our help last year, about 500 were children.”
The number of elderly people living below the poverty line was also on the rise.
“A growing number of older people don’t have the funds to keep paying rent,” she said. “They don’t have much superannuation and Newstart payments are only about $260 to $250 a week. People are struggling to find a rental for under $200 in Ballarat which leaves them with almost nothing to live on.”
As the city grapples with homelessness, leaders and welfare advocates are banding together to break the cycle. But they need the community’s help.
This month, the Halving Homelessness: Think Tank Ballarat forum will bring together people from all walks of life. Committee for Ballarat chief executive Melanie Robertson said it was about uniting the community and inspiring innovative ideas to tackle the issue.
“It shouldn’t fall to one agency to take responsibility,” she said. “As part of a vibrant and caring community, we all must play our part in fixing the issue and bringing these ideas to life.”
The forum is the coinage of Leadership Ballarat and Western Region, Committee for Ballarat and UnitingCare Ballarat. The Halving Homelessness: Think Tank Ballarat will be held on August 18 at Housey Housey, 12 Armstrong Street North. Details: visit lbwr.org