The cost of responding adequately to the needs of Victoria’s most vulnerable citizens – those experiencing mental illness and homelessness – is nowhere near as great as the individual and community-wide costs of failing to act.
This submission, prepared by the Western Homelessness Network, addresses Question 2 of the formal submission process: What is already working well and what can be done better to prevent mental illness and to support people to get early treatment and support?
The Network has focussed on this question specifically because, as a Sector, we know that homelessness causes mental ill health but that individuals are rarely able to address or stabilise mental health issues in the absence of secure, affordable housing.
Addressing Victoria’s housing crisis will reduce the numbers of people entering into homelessness and will enable women and children experiencing family violence to leave situations of violence early. This is, in turn, a preventative strategy, reducing the numbers of people experiencing mental ill health. Mental ill health leads to poverty for so many people. Fluctuating health creates challenges for people who are trying to manage study and/or stable employment; reducing the earning capacity of many people experiencing mental health issues in the absence of family support. Poverty reduces the capacity of tenants to manage housing costs and so can lead to homelessness, which causes mental ill health. Likewise, provision of affordable housing is central to stabilising mental health issues for those who are experiencing them. Practitioners from across the mental health and homelessness sectors have advised that it is extremely difficult for anyone to address mental ill health when there is no stability in their living arrangements and while a lack of housing continues to create stress and distress.
We present a number of recommendations, in addition to the key recommendation that the Government work with Federal and Local Governments to address Victoria’s housing crisis, that we believe will increase our capacity to intervene earlier in responding to people experiencing mental ill health.
The Western Homelessness Network made a submission to the State Parliamentary Inquiry into Homelessness in 2019.
The National Housing and Homelessness Agreement is the Agreement that ties State and Federal Governments to provision of housing and homelessness services. The current Agreement is due to end in June 2023. The Productivity Commission is undertaking a review of the Agreement and has produced a terrific Issues Paper to inform the Review.
Below is the Western Homelessness Network submission to the Review, submitted in March 2022.
The Western Homelessness Network sees the NHHA as an extremely important document, tying both State and Federal Governments to responsibility for provision of housing and for homelessness responses to people experiencing homelessness. But the NHHA does not go far enough in tying all levels of Government to responsibility for addressing the housing crisis in Australia that is causing hardship for such a significant proportion of Australians and is the primary cause of homelessness in Australia.
The Commissioner for Residential Tenancies was established in 2018 with the purpose of providing a voice to Government about issues affecting residential tenants.
The Commissioner for Residential Tenancies is investigating current living conditions in Victorian rooming houses, including any barriers to effective regulation and compliance in the rooming house sector.
The last significant review of rooming house conditions was in 2008. The Commissioner believes it is timely to seek the views of those involved in the sector about current conditions in Victorian rooming houses.
Below is the Western Homelessness Network submission, April 2022.
The Victorian Government commissioned an independent Social Housing Regulation Review in 2021. The Review aims to identify future regulatory arrangements that will best support the long-term interests of social housing residents and their communities. It also aims to best position social (and affordable) housing for growth and transformation over the coming decades.
The review panel has submitted an interim report. The WHN submission to the review is below.