Like many regional cities throughout Australia, Ballarat has a homelessness problem.
Most times it’s hidden, but sometimes it’s a very public issue.
Thankfully, Ballarat has been included in a state government initiative to address the problem of homelessness.
The impetus behind the initiative is to break the cycle of homelessness by intervening early.
An “assertive” outreach team” will be set up in Ballarat - as well as other areas where homelessness is a major issue, in an effort to get rough sleepers housed quickly and strengthen support services to keep vulnerable people off the streets.
More than $45 million will fund the Rough Sleeping Action Plan and $19 million of that is to establish the outreach teams in Ballarat, the Melbourne CBD, Dandenong, Frankston, Maroondah, Warrnambool, Geelong, Bendigo and Swan Hill.
These workers in Ballarat will actively seek out and engage with people experiencing homelessness and connect them with emergency accommodation, health services and ongoing support.
Uniting Ballarat’s Grampians homelessness network co-ordinator Jax Roan recently said recently homelessness was expanding in every demographic. “It’s ever increasing, our numbers have gone up every year,” she said. “Over the last 10 years in Ballarat, we’ve had lower rental vacancy rates than Melbourne. And we don’t have the income streams Melbourne does, but we have a tighter rental markets.”
And Council to Homeless Persons CEO Jenny Smith said vulnerable households have been forced to move into marginal accommodation, such as caravan parks.
The Council to Homeless Persons has made a submission to the 2017-18 State Budget calling for 14,500 new social housing properties to be built over the next five years.
Those experiencing homeless need helped to break the cycle, to see there are services available for them and there is hope for a brighter future.
Homeless people don’t need the disdain sometimes given to them by those ignorant people who walk by them in the street. They don’t need a handout, they need a hand up.
Homeless people don’t chose to sleep rough. It may be the result of an individual set of circumstances, sometimes beyond the person’s control. For many, they cannot see a way of breaking that cycle.
For all of them, there is now an answer.