Tackling Homelessness

By: Catherine Brown   |   Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation

Homelessness is a growing concern despite many efforts by community housing organisations and funders including our Foundation. This is because it is an issue that requires more than one response to address it.

We have to address the causes of homelessness and we have to address the practical need for housing, across the spectrum of social and affordable housing. 

It is a frustrating situation because we know what could work but it will take a cross sectoral approach.

People with complex mental health and drug and alcohol issues need support. Women, children and young people escaping family violence need safe accommodation and support. People need longer term or permanent housing as well as crisis accommodation.

As a Foundation we have been supporting the Homelessness Coordination Project which is connecting all service providers in the Melbourne CBD in partnership with the City of Melbourne and Council to Homeless Persons.

It has been great to see the additional funding from the State Government and the City of Melbourne and the creative responses coming from organisations such as Launch Housing and Vincent Care. We are very supportive of the work of both organisations, especially the redevelopment of Ozanam House to increase accommodation by 74 units and the visionary project Launch is developing to support women and children escaping family violence. These projects are part of the Foundation’s initiative to support innovation. We spend time understanding the risks in these projects but, subject to strong due diligence, are prepared to back leaders within the housing and homelessness sectors to develop new responses to the tough challenges of supporting people with complex needs and increasing the supply of affordable housing.

Increasing the supply of affordable housing is key to addressing homelessness. We know from other cities using the Housing First model that giving people a stable home is the first step in getting out of homelessness. From a stable base education and employment becomes more possible and if required other support services can be 'wrapped around'. Our participation in the Transforming Housing Partnership at University of Melbourne’s School of Design is helping us grow our knowledge so that we are open to new project ideas.

I am proud that the Foundation has made grants to HomeGround Real Estate, Justice Connect and Women's Property Initiative - all working in different ways to keep people in low cost rental housing. The loan to Habitat for Humanity through our investment in SEFA affordable housing loan fund is an important start.

Over the past three years, Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation made grants totalling close to $4 million supporting homelessness and affordable housing. There is still more to do.

We as a community also need to think about an inclusionary zoning approach where housing redevelopment and development projects across Melbourne located near transport and services are required to include an agreed percentage of affordable housing. We also need to show local communities that affordable housing can be well designed and add to the amenity of their local suburb. Port Phillip Housing Association's project in Port Melbourne designed by MGS Architects is a great example. Quality in my backyard is a campaign that has had success in the UK so why not here?

Let's use a multi-pronged, community wide approach to address homelessness.

Catherine Brown is speaking at our 2016 National Conference in September. Learn More >

Aug. 19, 2016

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