Critical additional responses for people experiencing homelessness placed in hotels during the COVID-19 pandemic
$11.5m in 2021-22 ($25.6m/3 yrs) for people who were placed in emergency hotel accommodation to remain there, with support to transition into longer-term housing arrangements. Funding is also provided for additional security at hotels.
$46.7m in 2020-21 ($193.7m/4 yrs) to continue a range of programs supporting people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, including:
- the Private Rental Assistance Program (PRAP), with an additional outreach initiative and expansion of the Aboriginal Private Rental Assistance Program
- housing support for people exiting prison to prevent homelessness
- continuing the assertive outreach and supportive housing teams for rough sleepers in Geelong, Frankston, Dandenong Maroondah, Swan Hill, Bendigo and Warrnambool, established under the Homelessness Rough Sleeping Action Plan)
- on-site delivery of essential health and addiction services at three congregate crisis accommodation facilities, to help treat the complex and diverse underlying causes of people’s homelessness, including alcohol and other drug treatment, mental health treatment and chronic health treatment
- specialist leaving care and homelessness services for young people
- the Kangan Education First Youth Foyer, which supports young people experiencing or at risk of homelessness by providing integrated accommodation and education-focused intervention for young people; and
- the H3 Alliance, to prevent and resolve homelessness in the rapidly expanding Wyndham growth corridor by increasing access to housing supply, providing outreach, transitional, legal and health support, building capacity and addressing issues that lead to housing vulnerability.
Tackling rough sleeping
$5.9m in 2021-22 ($26.2m/4 yrs), including funding to continue the Journey to Social Inclusion program, delivered by Sacred Heart Mission, and to establish a linked dataset to integrate data from departmental and agency systems to build a microsimulation model to plan service delivery for people sleeping rough.
Aboriginal family violence refuge for Wimmera South West area
$3.2m in 2021-22 ($4.8m/2 yrs) to construct and operate a new refuge in Horsham, with six independent residential units in a secure setting for Aboriginal victim survivors of family violence, building on the existing statewide family violence refuge redevelopment program.
Paving the Way Forward: pathway to recovery at North Melbourne and Flemington housing estates
$2.5m in 2020-21 ($6.5m/4 yrs) to continue and enhance community engagement, resident voice and partnership activities undertaken during the COVID-19 shutdown of the North Melbourne and Flemington public housing towers. The program also responds to recommendations in the Victorian Ombudsman’s Investigation into the detention and treatment of public housing residents arising from a COVID-19 ‘hard lockdown’ in 2020.
Supported housing for adults and young people living with mental illness
$3.2m in 2021-22 ($40.4m/4 yrs) under the mental health and wellbeing package to deliver the support component of the 2,000 social housing homes quarantined for people living with mental illness under the Big Housing Build package.
Online and digital access to VCAT
$10.5m in 2021-22 ($27.8m/4 yrs) to upgrade digital services infrastructure, such as case management and process automation, in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
This Budget comes close on the heels of the $5.3 billion Big Housing Build package announced in the November 2020 Budget.
This Budget builds on that record investment, by funding a range of supports that we know work. For example, it includes $110 million over four years to continue the Private Rental Assistance Program (PRAP) – a successful program that provides financial assistance to prevent evictions or to quickly rehouse people who have been evicted. The Aboriginal Private Rental Assistance Program has also been expanded, and we look forward to learning more about an additional outreach function that will be incorporated into PRAP.
Given that many Victorian renters continue to experience financial hardship due to lost incomes and the winding back of income supports, and many face rental debt accrued during the eviction moratorium, maintaining PRAP is an important measure to prevent homelessness. We will continue to monitor the effect the end of the eviction moratorium has on Victorian renters, and advocate for additional rent relief measures if necessary.
Additional funding for community legal centres and for the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal is welcome, to make sure that eviction moratorium legacy issues and other disputes can be addressed early and resolved quickly, and that renters can be aware of and benefit from their new rights under the Residential Tenancies Act that came into effect in March 2020.
While the Big Housing Build will be life-changing for those Victorians who get access to the 9,000 new social housing homes, there are still 100,000 people waiting for housing on the Victorian Housing Register, and the average wait time for public housing is 10.5 months for those on the priority access or transfer category.
We eagerly await the Ten-Year Strategy and future budgets, to build on the four-year Big Housing Build and establish and sustain a steady long-term pipeline of new public and community housing stock. We expect that the Ten-Year Strategy will also provide guidance on future budget investment for support models across prevention, early intervention and ongoing flexible support, so that people can get the right support at the right time to access and hang onto their housing.
VCOSS has long advocated for the establishment of a ‘no exits into homelessness’ policy. We were disappointed that, while the Final Report of the Inquiry into Homelessness in Victoria recommended establishing such a policy to guide discharge planning and support from institutional settings, this recommendation was absent in the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.
Given this policy context, we welcome the investment in this Budget to expand support to people leaving prison and young people leaving care and youth justice, both important steps towards ensuring no exits into homelessness from state institutions. The Government will respond to the Final Report of the Homelessness Inquiry in September 2021, and we hope to see this recommendation adopted and funded in future budgets.
The homelessness service package also provides funding for programs supporting people experiencing long-term or recurrent rough sleeping, including maintaining the assertive outreach and supportive housing teams established under the Homelessness and Rough Sleeper Action Plan (HRSAP) 2018, continuing the Journey to Social Inclusion program delivered by Sacred Heart Mission and topping up funds to support people currently housed in emergency hotel accommodation (pending their transition to longer-term housing) under the pandemic response.
These initiatives are examples of ‘Housing First’, a best practice model for people who have experienced chronic or recurring homelessness or who have complex needs. While the Victorian Government has gone some way towards implementing ‘Housing First’ models in recent years, we note that a lack of long-term, affordable housing options makes these models difficult to implement universally across Victoria, and we hope to see more social housing stock dedicated to supporting this approach under the Ten-Year Strategy and in subsequent budgets.
$10.9 million is also provided for a project that seeks to use multi-agency data and insights to better understand service usage, and to coordinate programs and systems to improve outcomes for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness, including people sleeping rough. This is a smart initiative that could be used over the course of the Ten-Year Strategy to plan housing and supports as demand changes over time.
This Budget maintains existing place-based initiatives – the Kangan Education First Youth Foyer in Broadmeadows and the H3 Alliance in Wyndham, as well as a new Aboriginal family violence refuge in Horsham. This Budget also provides $8 million for on-site delivery of health and addiction services at three congregate crisis accommodation facilities, and $40.4 million to deliver the support component of the 2,000 social housing homes quarantined under the Big Housing Build for people living with mental illness.
Each of these initiatives offer integrated housing and supports, to provide opportunity for service users to have their housing needs met while also addressing the health and social issues that may underlie experiences of homelessness.
Modest funding has been provided to enhance community engagement and strengthen resident voice at the North Melbourne and Flemington housing estates. This funding builds on activities initiated in response to the hard lockdown of these towers in July 2020, including recommendations made by the Victorian Ombudsman. This initiative offers Government an opportunity to trial best practice, grassroots resident engagement in social housing communities. Insights from this initiative could shape how social housing residents and prospective residents are engaged to provide input towards the design of the Ten-Year Strategy, and towards the delivery of new social housing.