SOLVING the city’s homelessness issue is more than just finding beds. It needs a wholistic approach for individuals and whole community support to address the broader crisis.
One year on from the Halving Homelessness: Think Tank Ballarat forum, we have made in-roads to a united approach among our welfare organisation. A cross-section of community leaders continue lobbying to launch novel ideas into solutions.
In the wider community, there still needs to be greater understanding on what it means to be homeless or struggling to make ends meet. We need to break the stigma.
This is a national issue is back in the spotlight for homeless awareness week, and more locally gaining attention deep in a notoriously cold Ballarat winter.
Grampians Homeless Network coordinator Jax Roan, a guest speaker at Ballarat Grammar’s sleep out, said the network’s single largest client group was children, aged under-16, accompanying their parents.
Single, middle-aged women sleeping rough, or in their cars, was also on the rise which Ms Roan anecdotally said was usually a result from finance struggles in broken marriages and a lack of housing affordability amid the rising cost of living.
Both are demographics that might not first spring to mind when thinking about homelessness, but both highlight the true complexity and continually evolving issue.
Ballarat welfare agencies are under more pressure than ever before to just help struggling families this winter with more people from the middle-income bracket seeking support. High utility bills have been a driving force.
Family violence is the primary reason for why people across the nation find themselves homeless, according to Homelessness Australia.
Ballarat Community Health youth homelessness worker Anna Flood said the main reason her teenage clients in the Creating Connections program need housing support was because they were fleeing family violence, drug use and substance abuse. Most are couch surfing.
They need their own bed, but they also need education and employment pathways, with skills to live independently.
Homelessness workers tell us nobody chooses to be homeless.
We can choose to be more aware of how diverse and far-reaching this issue is on our Ballarat streets and that is a big step to better understanding how we can help.