In 2020 Mitchell Shire Council announced it would sell two units in Wallan for social housing.

A RISE in the number of people experiencing homelessness who are seeking support has risen in the Mitchell Shire over 2020-2021, according to BeyondHousing.

The announcement came during Homelessness Week, from August 1 to 7, which aims to raise awareness of the impact of homelessness in Australia.

In Mitchell Shire and surrounding areas, there are 500 households experiencing homelessness, and 472 households on the housing waitlist, a social housing shortfall of 2900 in the Nichols electorate and critically low rental vacancy rates.

BeyondHousing chief executive Celia Adams said the organisation assisted thousands of people each year who were in a housing crisis, at risk of homelessness, or in financial stress.

“Our homelessness team in Seymour, which assists people of both Mitchell and Murrindindi shires, assisted 509 households in 2020-2021, a 4.1 per cent increase on the previous year,” she said.

“We supported almost 800 households across all our client services, which includes people who need help to find and keep a home in the private rental market.”

BeyondHousing campaigns to address issues leading to homelessness and works with people to find safe and affordable housing. But the demand for services is growing.

“Rates of homelessness did not increase because we don’t know how to solve the problem: we do,” Ms Adams said.

“People who are housed are not homeless. Having enough housing, in the form people need it is critical.

“With the safety and security of a home, and a support service that is tailored people can connect with jobs, family and other community supports that will help them get back on their feet.”

Ms Adams said they were particularly concerned with the rates of people experiencing homelessness presenting with a mental health issue.

Currently 11.8 per cent of clients say their current mental health is a reason for them being homeless, and more than half of all clients, 53 per cent, have recent difficulties with their mental health.

“People with mental illness are more at risk of homelessness due to increased vulnerability, difficulty sustaining employment, and withdrawing from friends and family. The stress that comes with homelessness increases the risk of mental illness,” Ms Adams said.

“Living without a home can increase fear, anxiety and depression and can lead to substance abuse as a coping mechanism.”

Financial difficulties remained the number one reason for seeking homelessness support, affecting 36 per cent of people and families who were helped by BeyondHousing.

The organisation also revealed the impact of domestic and family violence with almost one in four clients experiencing homelessness because they were fleeing family violence.

The Nowhere To Go Equity Economics report, commissioned by Everybody’s Home, found family violence was the leading reason women and children sought specialist homelessness services. But only 3.2 per cent are receiving the long-term housing solutions they need.

Ms Adams said the Federal Government needed to offer more financial support and resources.

“On the current trajectory, housing stress is only going to worsen for people on low and middle incomes, which is why we need the Australian Government to make an urgent investment in social housing now,” Ms Adams said.

“We are simply saying to the Australian Government that we can’t wait anymore for a long-term systematic investment in social housing. There are so many families, so many households that are waiting for affordable securable housing.

“Homelessness doesn’t have to be inevitable. We can make an impact with increasing the construction of affordable housing at a scale that meets the needs of the community.”

BeyondHousing is planning or is constructing 160 new homes over the next year across the region using its own funds in addition to funding from the Peter and Lyndy White Foundation and the State Government.

“But even at the current rate of construction we could not provide enough homes for the people and families already on the lengthy waitlist, let alone respond to the dire shortage of private rentals in the region,” Ms Adams said.