A ‘housing first’ approach is the focus of a project to tackle homelessness in the Central Highlands region.
The Central Highlands Regional Partnership received $300,000 funding in the 2018/19 state budget to undertake research on homelessness, and pilot a housing first project.
Community members and stakeholders identified homelessness as a key priority at the Central Highlands Regional Assembly
Central Highlands Regional Partnership social and community leader Geoff Sharp said the feasibility study was a response to community desire to create systematic change.
“No one seems to have a clear handball on the size and scale of homelessness in this region, largely because a lot of it is hidden,” he said.
The project is broken into three stages: research, workshops and a housing first pilot program.
Research is expected to be finalised in July or August. It involves compiling existing data from agencies and conversations with people who have experienced homeless.
It’s about what we can do to get that long term systems change.Geoff Sharp, social and community leader
A group of community stakeholders will then meet to workshop a response appropriate for the Central Highlands region.
“If we know what it looks like, how do we develop a response that is right for us, not for someone down in Melbourne?,” Mr Sharp said.
Stakeholders will examine the appropriateness of a ‘housing first’ approach.
“Sometimes we can turn ourselves inside out thinking about homelessness and solving all the complex issues, before we deal with the most basic one,” Mr Sharp said.
“If people don’t have somewhere to live we can’t get services to them. A housing first response focuses on getting people into safe, secure housing first, then getting services to them.
“It is a complex issue. Homelessness can mean young people couch surfing, people living in the bush in Golden Plains shire, and a different face in Moorabool Shire to the Pyrenees Shire. We have to capture those nuances and differences for our region by thinking more specifically about what our region needs.
“It’s about what we can do to get that long term systems change.”
Regional assemblies began across the state in 2016 to identify key priorities for nine regional communities.
The 2018 Central Highlands Regional Assembly was held on June 14 in Ballarat.
It asked community members to share their thoughts on the partnership’s top priorities – new and renewable energy, health, digital connectivity, agriculture, and homelessness.