Homeless locked out, back on streets between lockdowns


There’s no provision for homeless people between lockdowns in Victoria. The government provides funds for emergency hotel accommodation during lockdowns – but once the crisis is over, the homeless are out on their own again. It’s back to the streets or unstable housing.

Housing providers say the on-again, off-again provisions are frustrating. They can’t always secure safe accommodation for their clients each time stay-at-home orders are lifted.

One provider says: “As soon as the lockdown ends, we have the difficult job of then working with people to say ‘well that’s over now, what are we going to do about your housing, where you’re going to live?’,” he said.

“That’s not always easy, and it doesn’t always lead to great outcomes.”

He says homeless people often return to the streets, boarding homes or couch-surfing.

His concerns are echoed by the chief executive of another of the State’s housing providers.

“What’s really challenging, is every time there’s a lockdown, we’re instructed to ramp up housing [for] rough sleepers and placing them into hotel accommodation and then, as soon as the lockdown is over, we get told, ‘okay, now you have to start holding off on paying for that’,” he says.

Victoria has gone in and out of lockdown four times this year. It’s currently into its sixth lockdown since the pandemic began last year. More lockdowns are expected before the State’s vaccination-rate targets are met.

Although there aren’t nearly as many people in the State’s hotels for homeless program during the state’s sixth lockdown than there were last year, the number of places available is not capped. If stay-at-home orders remain in place, the number of people seeking help is expected to rise.

This is in part due to the 1,223 people who have been moved from hotels into houses as part of a ‘From Homelessness to a Home’ program. While more than half the State’s target have been accommodated via that program those who missed out are waiting to be processed in hotels.

Housing provider Bevan Warner is applauding calls in an Infrastructure Victoria report to continue to increase social housing. The State’s enviable program to build 12,000 new social and affordable homes by 2024 needs to be expanded, he says.

A government spokesperson says there have been 19,000 placements in the homeless hotel program since the start of the pandemic. There were 1667 people in the program last week.


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