Councils unite to address homelessness in the suburbs

Published: Monday 02 Aug 2021

The number of homeless people is growing in suburban areas and COVID-19 has further impacted the vulnerability of those who sleep rough without a safe place to call home.

Whitehorse City Council is among 13 eastern and south eastern municipalities uniting to address homelessness with a best practice guide launched during Homelessness Week, the Housing First for People Sleeping Rough Practice Guide for Local Government ( PDF 2.22MB)

More than 116,000 Australians and almost 25,000 Victorians were homeless on any given night pre-COVID-19 (ABS 2016 Census*), including 8,224 across the 13 municipalities and 742 in Whitehorse. Council staff have since noticed more people experiencing homelessness in the suburbs.

The 13 eastern and south eastern Council CEOs formed the Regional Local Government Homelessness and Social Housing Charter Group in late 2019 to end homelessness and advocate for more social housing. The 2016 Census found 33 per cent of Victorians without a home lived in this region.

Led by Monash Council, the Charter Group Councils recognise the growing need for suburban and local government advocacy for our most vulnerable through improved supports and more permanent and safe housing. 

The municipalities include Bayside Council, the City of Casey, City of Cardinia, Frankston City Council, City of Greater Dandenong, Knox City Council, City of Kingston, Manningham City Council, City of Monash, Maroondah City Council, Mornington Peninsula Shire, Whitehorse City Council, and Yarra Ranges Council.

Housing First for People Sleeping Rough Practice Guide for Local Government acknowledges that homelessness is a complex issue requiring a triage of support including mental health, but the first step needs to be providing a safe and secure home. 

The guide outlines the problem and possible solutions based on current best practice. It draws on evidence-based research about the value of social housing across the local government sector and communities, with an emphasis on the ‘Housing First’ model. 

Housing First is based on consumer choice, harm minimisation, human rights and collaboration. It relies on adequate housing supply and coordinated support services. 

Whitehorse Mayor, Cr Andrew Munroe said the Councils sought systemic change to improve supply of permanent, safe, appropriate and timely housing for those who needed it, and to embed Housing First as a key foundation principle.

“Homelessness is a growing problem in our suburbs, and COVID has complicated the situation,” Cr Munroe said. “Local councils are closest to the communities they serve. As providers of ground-level services, councils are well placed to make a difference.”

“The guide encourages a whole of Council approach to homelessness based on human rights, including everyone’s right to a safe and affordable home, while protecting public places and spaces.”

“Councils were well placed to address homelessness as local-laws officers, parks staff or contractors often interacted with people sleeping rough on public land and facilities.”  

“Often out of concern, local businesses and residents are also likely to contact our customer service staff to report people experiencing homelessness,” Cr Munroe said.

For more information visit Housing and Accommodation page.

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