Homelessness in Macedon Ranges Shire is a growing concern for community health workers in the area.
Federal Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness Jason Clare and Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell met with Cobaw Community Health workers Justine Maher, Donna Bogdanovski and Julie Cairns in Romsey on Friday to discuss first-hand challenges of homelessness in regional Victoria.
“The challenges are enormous here,” Mr Clare said.
“House prices are going up, rent is going through the roof, more people are struggling to pay the bills, and there’s a desperate need for crisis accommodation and refuges.”
Support worker Justine Maher told the Labor politicans that increasing living costs and rent were pushing people out of the Melbourne CBD and into areas such as the Macedon Ranges – putting pressure on local communities to find public housing.
Cobaw Community Health works with about 200 people per year, including 50 people under the age of 25, assisting them to move from rough sleeping or crisis accommodation to more long term housing.
Mr Clare was interested in how the team worked with clients on breaking the poverty cycle.
“We worked with a young client who’s mother and grandmother both lived in public housing, she had mental health issues and couldn’t keep down a job,” Ms Maher said.
“We worked with her and built up her life skills and now she’s supporting herself on a $100,000 annual salary. Early intervention and education is key.”
Mr Mitchell said since the opening of Cobaw Community Health in Romsey, housing staff have seen an increase in demand for the service.
“We just wish we had more local options for people to ensure a stable and safe roof over their heads,” Mr Mitchell said.
Mr Mitchell said despite the 30 per cent rise nationally in homelessness over the past 10 years, there had been no increase in funding for public housing and affordable rental homes.
Emergency assistance organisations such as Cobaw Community Health stand to lose funding next year that assists with once-off-assistance like food hampers and transport vouchers for financially disadvantaged people.
“The problem is real and getting worse, the number of people that are homeless in Australia today is worse than ever before – we will judge the government on whether they’ll do something to turn that number around and get more people shelter and a bed to sleep in,” Mr Clare said.
On Thursday, as part of Homelessness Week, the Cobaw Housing team will host a free lunch – soup and bread at Kyneton Mechanics Reserve between 12 and 1pm.