Homelessness in the Central Highlands region is rapidly increasing, according to a report released on Wednesday.
Housing services in Ballarat reported a 43 per cent rise in requests for long-term housing assistance and a 31 per cent rise in requests for short-term housing assistance from 2015 to 2018.
The report, Homelessness in the Central Highlands, shows 41 per cent of people experiencing homelessness in the Central Highlands in 2016 were aged under 25, a percentage higher than the Victorian (39 per cent) and Australian (37 per cent) rate.
Central Highlands Regional Partnership chairperson George Fong said the report aimed to profile homelessness at a high enough level in the region for the community to address the root causes.
"If we have been at it for 20 years and we haven't fixed it, can we change the way we are looking at the problem?," he told The Courier.
Data reveals a total of 601 people experienced homelessness in the Central Highlands region in 2016: 272 of those lived in supported accommodation for the homeless, 98 temporarily stayed with other households, 111 lived in boarding houses, 97 lived in 'severely' overcrowded dwellings and 25 in tents or improvised dwellings.
If we have been at it for 20 years and we haven't fixed it, can we change the way we are looking at the problem?George Fong, Central Highlands Regional Partnership
Of the people living in supported accommodation for the homeless or sleeping rough, 75 were under the age of 12 - the highest number of all age groups.
The report stated almost half of all adults experiencing homelessness first experienced it as a child.
"This indicates an urgent need for a focus on early intervention and prevention to break the cycle of intergenerational homelessness," it said.
"Evidence shows the instances of homelessness and housing crisis could be avoided through earlier support and tenancy sustainment services."
See the full report below.
The Central Highlands Regional Partnership report outlined the individual risk factors driving homelessness; family violence, intergenerational homelessness, mental health issues and people leaving institutional settings like hospitals, out of home care and prison.
A lack of affordable housing, employment, a lack of housing options and access to specialist services were highlighted as the structural risk factors driving homelessness.
The report found there was a mismatch between the type of housing available in the Central Highlands and the housing needed, with an urgent need for affordable, long-term rental housing, and one-bedroom dwellings.
Mr Fong said the report aimed to provide community with an understanding to the causes of homelessness before crafting solutions.
"We can't always outsource the problem to a government department. At some point in time the community has to come together, say this is a problem for all of us and work with other authorities and partners to create a long-term reduction of the problem," he said.
"My aspiration is that members of the community will become more engaged and active in making the region a better place for people to live.
"It won't happen overnight... There is no one single silver bullet."
The report suggests examples for community action to address homelessness as building skills and awareness, building inclusion and encouraging more construction of housing.
Proposed community actions include mentoring young renters to help avoid tenancy failure (a major driver of homelessness) increasing rental housing stock on private property, and providing opportunities for people with no or low income to participate in sports and community events.
The report was created after homelessness was assessed as a priority during three Central Highlands Regional Partnership Assemblies, particularly during a forum with young people.
Mr Fong provided a copy of the report to the Ballarat business community on Wednesday as a starting point for employers to begin thinking about how they can address the issue.
You can tell the Central Highlands Regional Partnership what you are doing to address homelessness by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Rental affordability snapshot highlights Ballarat's housing crisis
- Renting a house in Ballarat is so hard, some families are being forced to couch surf
- Ballarat rental vacancy rates improve, but market is still tight
- Homelessness assistance due to family violence surges
- United call for investment in social and affordable housing
- 'Terrifying'; a rising number of older people are experiencing homelessness