More than 50 people who were experiencing homelessness and stayed in motels as a last resort during the COVID-19 outbreak last year have now got a place to call home.
The state government Homelessness To A Home program has arranged secure housing for 74 households experiencing homelessness in the Central Highlands, South West and Wimmera regions.
The housing placement becomes the client's long-term home and services provide ongoing support for 12 to 18 months, with an aim to stop the 'revolving door' of homelessness.
Support workers help clients reintegrate into the community, develop independent living skills, provide mental health, alcohol and other drug support and help with linking into the education system.
Uniting and CatholicCare worked together to deliver the program to a short timeline, prioritising 74 households for the program out of more than 700 that would have been eligible.
Securing housing, having a safe, secure home means people can focus on the big picture.Virginia Louey, CatholicCare homelessness manager
People must have been placed into crisis accommodation in hotels and motels from March to December 2020 and have a history of rough sleeping or chronic homelessness to be eligible.
CatholicCare manager homelessness support services Virginia Louey said it was the first time Uniting and CatholicCare had worked so closely to achieve a big outcome.
"This is such a new model. We jumped into it and had to make it work," she said.
The state government supplied 15 existing social housing properties and purchased 18 properties from the private market, while CatholicCare and Uniting committed to supplying 35 properties.
Some of those were existing properties and the others were secured through new head leasing arrangements.
Head leasing means the agency signs the lease with the real estate agent and the client signs the lease through the agency.
The tenant pays 25 per cent of their income as rent and the program makes up the difference.
The Victorian government invested $150 million for the program to house more than 1800 people statewide.
Ms Louey said it was a big challenge to secure so many properties, particularly in the South West where stock availability was low.
"To get properties out in the South West is incredibly difficult, even in Ballarat and the Wimmera is hard," she said.
"That is the deeper learning that it is not just money you require, you actually need resources because when there is no rental stock to be had or properties to be purchased you can't magic it up.
"That is quite confronting probably for the department as well. They have incredible resources, they have a whole department dedicated to purchasing property and they are struggling.
"Down in Warrnambool I have heard of places being listed and sold within 72 hours."
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Fifty-two households have now moved into their housing and 22 more are waiting to move in through the program.
Uniting Ballarat acting coordinator housing and homelessness Adam Liversage said it was exciting for workers to now be able to help people get their lives back on track.
"They will help them get into education and the workforce and addressing mental health and alcohol and drug issues. The real work really begins now," he said.
"The underpinning rationale behind Homelessness To A Home is it is incredibly difficult to work with a client and get many good outcomes for them if their primary focus is where am I sleeping tonight," Ms Louey said.
"Securing housing, having a safe, secure home means people can focus on the big picture.
"For me a really good service is at the end of the program we never see them again, they continue on with their lives. They don't have to swing back through our systems."
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Three young babies and their mothers now have secure housing as part of the program and two women who have recently moved into their homes are due to give birth soon.
Ms Louey said she would love to see the Homelessness To a Home model used again in the future and for the strong partnership between Uniting and CatholicCare to continue.
Mr Liversage said all housing and homelessness services had to work together in the initial phases of the program to prioritise clients for the program and this collaboration was also a positive outcome.
Ms Louey said for many clients, securing housing through this program would be an 'absolutely pivotal' moment in their lives.
"It might be for some of those young mums with babies, who are setting off that child's journey in secure long term housing," she said.
"They can make plans, they can think about building an environment that is safe and secure for their child and that is just amazing.
"Last year there were women giving birth to children who were living in motels.
"They were being discharged from hospital into motels or their child is taken off them by child protection because their only housing option is a motel room."
Homelessness Week runs from August 1 to 7 with an aim to raise awareness of the impacts of homelessness and the importance of housing as a solution.
People experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness in Ballarat can contact Uniting on 5332 1286 or by calling the 24-hour Victorian hotline on 1800 825 955.
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