By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Dandenong has been earmarked for new ‘assertive outreach’ teams to help people sleeping rough.
It is one of eight regions of ‘high need’ that are targeted by the State Government’s $19 million program, which is currently open to tender.
The outreach workers would actively seek out and engage with homeless people, and provide rapid access to emergency accommodation, health services and ongoing case management.
Dandenong will also be home to a supportive housing team that helps particularly those who have been chronically homeless to remain in housing.
WAYSS homelessness services manager Jen Kelly welcomed the positive moves to further help at least 50 people sleeping rough on any one night in Dandenong.
“We know we have got people camping in Bunyip State Park and that is what they can afford.”
According to Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates in 2016, there were 437 children who were homeless in Greater Dandenong.
It estimates that homelessness in the local council area rose by 28 per cent since 2011.
Ms Kelly said wrap-around support services were needed to not just house, but “rebuild” lives for homeless people.
“When you become homeless, you lose your social contacts, your work, your room and your mate. It’s very embarrassing.
“A lot withdraw from the norm. Your perspective changes, your trust changes so it needs a rebuild to come back in the fold.”
Housing service WAYSS also received extra funding over four years to expand its after-hours refuge support for victims after serious family violence incidents.
The 24/7 refuge service has been running in response to findings by the 2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence.
Ms Kelly said staff were on-call at all hours to help shelter women and children in emergency accommodation.
“The big push now is to not remove the women and children from the property.
“Rather, if things can be worked out, mum and the kids can go back with sufficient security in place, such as intervention orders.
“That would be ideal because children don’t want to be moved around. And the women and children haven’t done anything wrong.”
Dandenong MP Gabrielle Williams said the assertive outreach and supportive housing teams would help reach more people at risk of homelessness and provide ongoing support.
“Homelessness is complex and often intertwined with a range of other issues, which can sometimes make it hard for people to ask for help.”
Housing, Disability and Ageing Minister Martin Foley said the teams were a “targeted and holistic way” to tackle homelessness.
“We are looking at new ways to provide integrated services that help people with all of their needs, with a greater focus on prevention and early intervention, rather than a crisis-driven response.”