There’s nothing like a pandemic to create changes! There is surely not one homeless person who doesn’t dream of change. Perhaps one of the good things that has been highlighted by COVID-19 is the plight of those without permanent shelter.
Since March, the Victorian government has provided $15 million to homelessness organisations to find temporary accommodation in hotels for people who were sleeping in the streets. A further $9.8 million has been provided to keep them there, in the short term, but also help them plan a pathway into more long-term, stable accommodation.
The obvious concern, initially, was about COVID-19 getting into the homeless population and the infection spreading rapidly, because the capacity of a homeless person to self-isolate is zero.
The Housing Minister, Richard Wynne, intervened to find a safe place for people to stay while we weathered this pandemic, and within days of hotels opening their doors, hardly anyone was living on the street. At least 4,500 homeless people have been put up in hotels across the state. 1000 in the CBD alone where Melbourne City Council has grappled with homelessness for years.
Sally Capp, our Lord Mayor and the Council, have now made homelessness its priority, and she says, ‘It’s breathtaking to see what is possible when street homelessness is prioritised and everyone works together.
The issue of rough sleeping seemed just too complex before the pandemic, but it’s provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to place rough sleepers directly from the hotels into permanent housing.
Our plans to provide temporary shelter, food and companionship to a few homeless men, when we move into our new Church and Community Centre will come to fruition in the fullness of time. However the real need for those who are homeless is a home, where they can grow in self-esteem and dignity.
I believe our most effective role is to pressure politicians and those who have the power to direct funds and decide policies which will provide the houses which homeless people can call ‘home’.