The number of people presenting as homeless in Ballarat has nearly doubled since the outbreak of COVID-19, according to the city's main housing agency.
Uniting Ballarat co-ordinator housing and homelessness Adam Liversage said a number of factors relating to the health crisis were causing the increase.
He said many people already experiencing homelessness were travelling to Ballarat from other areas, while others were losing access to existing accommodation due to financial and health concerns.
"We are seeing a massive influx of people presenting as homeless, it has almost gone up two-fold," Mr Liversage said.
"It is hard to describe really."
Mr Liversage said he had seen people who were experiencing homelessness prior to the health crisis travel from other locations, mainly Melbourne, to Ballarat.
We are seeing a massive influx of people presenting as homeless.Adam Liversage, Uniting Ballarat
He said this was because they felt they had run out of options in that location or saw Ballarat as a safer place due to a relatively low COVID-19 infection rate.
Mr Liversage said many other people presenting as homeless were couch surfing or staying with friends prior to the outbreak, but had been told to leave because of social distancing rules and health concerns.
He said another group affected was people living in caravan parks, camping grounds and forests who were moved when parks shut.
Some of these people have been allowed to stay at some free campsites like at Lake Burrumbeet, while others had moved into Ballarat Central to sleep rough.
"Legislation states if people have nowhere to go, if they are homeless or have no other options, then they can remain there (at some free campsites)," Mr Liversage said.
"Our Street 2 Home team has been visiting those particular areas quite frequently and ensuring people in those free camp grounds do know their rights and can stay there.
"Street 2 Home workers have been providing material aid, food hampers and blankets, whenever we can to those people."
Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute data shows people who are sleeping rough are vulnerable to respiratory infections at normal times.
In addition, their risk of contracting COVID-19 is heightened because they cannot self-isolate - rough sleepers often congregate in common areas for safety.
People experiencing homelessness also often have limited access to places to wash their hands and clothing.
RELATED COVERAGE: Uniting sees spike in the number of rough sleepers
Mr Liversage said Uniting's outreach team was working to provide masks and gloves to people experiencing homelessness, while educating rough sleepers and tenants at Reid's Guest House about social distancing and personal hygiene.
Meanwhile, more people are presenting as homeless who may not have experienced homelessness before.
Mr Liversage said people were suffering financially due to COVID-19 restrictions and many had been kicked out of their rental properties before the moratorium on evictions was brought in.
He said a growing number of people were escaping family violence.
"We have a lot of families, singles and couples in hotels and motels," he said.
"Many have lost their accommodation for a number of reasons.
"The normal issues such as alcohol and drug and mental health issues and other contributing social factors behind people becoming homeless are still prevalent as well."
A funding boost from the Department of Health and Human Services has helped Uniting secure places for people to stay in Ballarat motels and hotels.
Many motels have offered weekly rates to clients making it either affordable on their current income, or with a co-payment from Uniting.
Mr Liversage said Uniting had also experienced a 200 per cent increase in referrals to a program that supports people to maintain their private rentals.
That program received $160,000 extra funding to be able to cope with the demand of rent arrears.
"I think in the wash of all this there are going to be a lot of people, singles, couples and families who are going to need a lot of support, especially those still living in crisis accommodation," Mr Liversage said.
"There is still a massive long-term housing shortage here in Ballarat. This is going to create more homelessness in this region.
"We expect there is going to be a higher need for ongoing, long-term support to get these people into long-term accommodation.
"We are seeing it right across the board with a lot of different people in a lot of different circumstances and scenarios as a result of COVID-19."
RELATED COVERAGE: COVID-19 creates a new demographic of people seeking food relief
Creative solutions to address the challenges of homelessness during the coronavirus pandemic have been put in place around the world.
The Victorian government announced earlier this month it would use re-purposed aged care homes to provide self-isolation facilities for people experiencing homelessness to recover from coronavirus or avoid infection.
Four pop-up facilities in inner Melbourne will provide health care and supported accommodation for more than 200 rough sleepers throughout the next six months.
Mr Liversage said this model could be applied in regional cities like Ballarat and Bendigo that were in 'dire need' of extra beds and resources - but an extensive amount of funding and preparation time was required.
The Victorian government is investing $8.8 million into the four pop-up Melbourne facilities.
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