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    Street2Home launch - head of homelessness Adam Liversage and Glenn Kimberley from Uniting Wimmera.

Advocating to bridge a homeless support gap

By Abby Walter

A Wimmera-based community services organisation will continue to advocate for funding to bridge a gap for people accessing homelessness support.  

The six-month pilot program, Street to Home, involved a Uniting Vic.Tas
Wimmera support worker helping people sleeping rough across the region to access shelter, food, and health and personal care. 

The program supported 92 people sleeping rough and helped nine people find housing. 

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Prior to the program, people seeking support would present to services such as Uniting Wimmera and this continues despite the trial ending. 

Uniting Wimmera’s various homelessness programs supported 239 people in the year to July 2023. 

Uniting Vic.Tas western division senior manager of homelessness Adam Liversage said the assertive outreach program was always designed to be a trial.

“We strongly believe in its importance, and we will continue to advocate for the funding required to deliver this program on an ongoing basis across the Wimmera,” he said.

“Earlier this year, we received funding from the State Government for a six-month trial of the Wimmera Assertive Outreach program.

“One of our support workers travelled around the Wimmera identifying people sleeping rough and providing immediate assistance such as blankets, sleeping bags, tents, food and links with local services, such as mental health and substance abuse treatment and healthcare.” 

Mr Liversage said there was a housing and homeless crisis in the Wimmera and most rough sleepers were living in the open – either on the streets or at local parks.

“Despite the chronic shortage of affordable housing, we managed to find housing for nine people – including placing five in long-term housing,” he said.

“Every night, there are people in this community who are sleeping rough on the streets, parks, in cars or couch surfing. 

“Most rough sleepers say they feel unsafe, have very few possessions and are often unable to meet even their most basic needs, not knowing where they will get their next meal, let alone find a place to live.

“In the 12 months to July, we had 239 people presenting to our Horsham housing and homelessness entry point – more than double the previous year.

“We see young people, families and older people sleeping in cars, squatting or living in cold and dilapidated caravans with no running water or electricity for heat.” 

Mr Liversage said rising costs of living were forcing more people into homelessness and more people were asking for help – including people who had not sought Uniting’s support previously.

“People experiencing chronic homelessness and sleeping rough typically have complex support needs and face barriers to access support services and sustain secure housing, and breaking this cycle requires a combination of targeted support services that include long-term or even permanent support to prevent future homelessness,” he said.

“Uniting Wimmera continues to provide a range of services for people needing housing and homelessness support across the region including helping people with transitional and community housing, support for tenants as well as for people at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness.”

The State Government did not respond to requests for comment.

People who need assistance can call Uniting Vic.Tas at 5362 4000 or visit the Horsham office in Baillie Street; in an emergency, call 000. 

The entire November 15, 2023 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!