Homelessness has multiple underpinning causes, including mental health issues, addiction, incarceration, family violence and crucially, poverty.
Housing affordability is a key issue for people on social welfare payments, and the capacity for people to pay rent on Newstart or Youth Allowance is difficult with the median weekly rent in Regional Victoria being $340¹ - and Youth Allowance only providing $512.50 per fortnight (or $256.25 per week) for single people²³.
In Ballarat we have seen an increase in homelessness across all cohorts, with a local challenge being the lack of affordable rental stock combined with new people moving into the area.
The rental vacancy rate (availability) in Ballarat is currently just over 1%⁴, and there are only eight units for rent for people on low income throughout the region.
The highest demographic of people experiencing homelessness in Ballarat is men over the age of 18, and we see a lot of men who have exited prison into homelessness with little family or social connections to support them.
Young people and women and children fleeing family violence are also an increasing cohort, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Addressing homelessness in Ballarat
Homeless people primarily need a home. Once accommodation is secured and safe, this is when other goals can be achieved.
Addressing issues of unemployment, mental health and addictions is very difficult while homeless; achieving goals requires stability and safety.
CatholicCare Victoria’s Ballarat region has a range of homelessness programs as well as a Social Housing arm. Some of our specialist programs supporting people of varying ages and cohorts include the Community Connections program, Housing Support for the Aged, and Assistance with Care and Housing.
Peplow House provides crisis accommodation for eight men at a time, and our staff work closely with the residents to secure appropriate long-term accommodation and identify goals and aspirations.
We recently received a referral for a man who was released from jail after a long period of incarceration. Through our initial discussions with him, he identified that he had serious mental health issues and a history of abusing drugs and alcohol.
This man was very fearful of leaving jail; he had been in jail for most of his adult life. We were able to provide him with safe and secure accommodation, and support to identify what goals he wanted to focus on in the short period he lived at Peplow House.
Our staff also identified that he had significant cognitive impairment, and arranged assessment for an NDIS package - he was deemed eligible and supported accommodation was included in his package. His period of support at Peplow House enabled him to stay stable and move into long-term accommodation with the support he requires.
We work collaboratively with a range of services and agencies in Ballarat with a strong focus on achieving positive outcomes for our clients.
Learn more about our Ballarat homelessness and advocacy support services here: www.centacareballarat.org.au
Virginia Louey | Manager, Homelessness Support Services
Liz Gellel | Communications Coordinator