Uniting Ballarat is calling for a national housing strategy that will provide half a million social and affordable rental homes across Australia.
The call comes as an increasing number of individuals and families are accessing Uniting's services due to a lack of available rentals in the region.
The rental vacancy rate in Ballarat was recorded at 0.8 in March 2019, a drop from 1.4 per cent availability in March 2018, according to REIV data.
REIV chief executive Gil King has previously said a vacancy rate of three per cent is required for a healthy rental market.
Uniting Ballarat executive officer Annette Kelly-Egerton said she was seeing families with fantastic rental records and references forced into couch surfing because they have been unable to secure private rentals.
"A particular couple with a small child applied for over 50 local rentals with no luck. They ended up having to stay with relatives until they could secure a lease," she said.
"It's important to understand the impact this form of homelessness has on our community members. There is a marked effect in their ability to function as a family unit with these extended periods of high stress."
Uniting Ballarat senior manager of housing and homelessness Wendy Ferguson said the lack of available properties had resulted in many people fleeing a family-violence situation having to decide the potential of rough sleeping or returning to an abusive relationship.
"We've had a family on the waiting list for community and public housing for more than seven months," she said.
A particular couple with a small child applied for over 50 local rentals with no luck.Annette Kelly-Egerton, Uniting Ballarat
"In this time, the family has had to move between crisis support arrangements, due to availability. This is incredibly hard on the mother and her children who are struggling to attend school and maintain a 'normal' life.
"It's heartbreaking to know that she is considering returning to that abusive relationship just to have stable housing for her children."
Uniting is calling for a commitment from both sides of parliament to address the issue of housing and homelessness.
"We want a national strategy to be developed which will provide 500,000 social and affordable rental homes that are so desperately needed across the nation alongside an increase in rent assistance to reflect increasing housing costs," said Ms Kelly-Egerton.
"The state government's recent funding of modular units in Bacchus Marsh is a step in the right direction."
"We need to develop and adequately fund a real plan to end homelessness in Australia. All Australians have the right to the safety and stability that housing provides."