Homelessness soars in region

HOMELESSNESS in the Wendouree electorate has increased by more than 50 per cent, a new report has found.

On Friday, the Council to Homeless Persons released Australian Bureau of Statistics data, highlighting Victoria’s worst electorates for homelessness. 

Figures from the ABS population and housing data, taken from the 2011 Census, found there are almost 600 people experiencing homelessness in Ballarat. 

It also revealed that homelessness has soared by 51 per cent in the Wendouree region from 2006 to 2011. 

In 2006, there were 167 people experiencing homelessness in Wendouree, compared to 252 in 2011.

The report comes in the wake of the deaths of a young couple in Cardigan on July 25.

The couple were sleeping in a car and were using a Butane heater to keep warm.

It is believed the heater contributed to their deaths. 

UnitingCare chief executive officer Cliff Barclay said Ballarat is being inundated by homeless people who are gravitating to the city’s CBD area in the hope of securing housing.

But their hopes are being dashed by factors including high unemployment, family violence, drug and alcohol abuse and a lack of social and public housing that Mr Barclay said is fuelling the cycle of poverty. 

“We just don’t have the stock to house the expanding population,” Mr Barclay said. “Ballarat tenancies are so tight at the moment, there are not enough of them plus the increasing costs of rent are making that housing inaccessible to the people who need them the most.””

CHP’s data reveals there are only 23 one-bedroom properties in Ballarat available to low-income renters.

According to CHP, almost 800 people remain on the public housing waiting list in Ballarat.

The city’s median rent has also soared from $150 in 2006 to $260 per week. 

The report found in Buninyong, there were 170 people experiencing homelessness in the 2011 Census, down from 174 in 2006.

In the Ripon electorate 146 people were found to be experiencing homelessness, down from 181 people recorded in the 2006 Census.

Council to Homeless Persons chief executive officer Jenny Smith said a reduction in the statistics did not signify that the situation has improved.

“In Buninyong it has only decreased by four people which is virtually no change,” Ms Smith said. “Ripon has only decreased by 35 people, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has improved, it could just mean the way people have been profiled has changed slightly.”

She added that there had also been an increased in multiple families, sometimes as many as four, living in single dwelling at one time.

With an impending state election, Ms Smith called on all political parties to commit to making homelessness a priority. 

Ms Smith said the welfare agency wanted to see a commitment from all political candidates to back a campaign that would see $50 million invested into housing and intensive support for the state’s homeless. 

“The need is there in regional areas just as much as it in inner city Melbourne,” Ms Smith said. “The increase in homelessness in Wendouree shows that even when people to try to move out to regional areas for cheaper housing they are still finding it extremely difficult to secure a home.”

The report found the Albert Park electorate had the highest rate of homelessness with 1,164 people, just in front of the Melbourne electorate, which recorded 1,066 people.



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