Homeless families to get permanent housing as hotel program winds down

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Hundreds of homeless Victorians who have been staying in state-funded hotels during lockdowns will be found a permanent place to live, but there will not be a home for everyone as the hotel program prepares to wind down permanently.

Housing Minister Richard Wynne said $66 million dollars would go towards supporting 250 families, including 400 children, to stay in hotels until permanent homes that fit their needs are found.

Housing Minister Richard Wynne announced $66 million to house 250 families in permanent accommodation.Credit:Simon Schluter

The state government will work with community housing organisations to acquire accommodation for those families. Individuals from 1845 households have already moved out of hotels and into stable accommodation during the pandemic.

However, hundreds of homeless singles and couples will need to work with support agencies to find new lodgings before the hotels program closes permanently, which is pencilled in for February.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Victorian government has spent millions housing rough sleepers in hotels during lockdowns to limit the impact of COVID-19 outbreaks among vulnerable people who were unable to isolate.

Almost 3000 people from 2307 households were in emergency hotel accommodation last week. During lockdown several social housing buildings were affected by cases of COVID-19, including a 38-person rooming house in Balaclava.

John Cribbes House in Balaclava was locked down after a COVID-19 case.Credit:Chris Hopkins

Mr Wynne has consistently flagged that the emergency hotel accommodation was a short-term measure rather than a permanent solution and with Victoria’s most recent lockdown seemingly its last, the program will be gradually wound back.

Council to Homeless Persons chief executive Jenny Smith welcomed the $66 million commitment, but warned some people would still fall through the cracks.

She called for the state government to extend the permanent housing support to highly vulnerable individuals in the short and medium-term.

“We were concerned as a sector that we’d just be turfing people out of hotels. This is a fantastic outcome for those families, who can now enjoy a full-time home and build a trajectory towards a bright future,” Ms Smith said.

Council to Homeless Persons chief executive Jenny Smith welcomed the announcement but said more could be done. Credit:Eddie Jim

The state government’s $5.3 billion social housing build will create 12,000 new properties in the long term, although the first are not expected to open until the second half of next year at the earliest.

Ms Smith said it was inevitable some singles and couples would need to move into “substandard and unacceptable” accommodation such as rooming houses once the hotels program concludes.

“Until more social housing exists or the federal government increases its support to the homeless to an acceptable level, that’s just the situation at the moment,” she said.

Mr Wynne said the state government would support all residents in emergency hotels to develop a housing exit plan over the coming months.

“We are continuing to work with the community sector to provide the support needed, including transitional housing and private rental assistance,” he said.

Peter Ruzyla, chief executive of social and community health organisation EACH, welcomed the focus on families and children as a worthwhile long-term investment.

He said the sharpened focus on homelessness during the pandemic meant Victoria was trying to catch up at breakneck speed.

“It is a reality check that not everybody can be perfectly assisted at all times. The existing system is working at full stretch to absorb this amount of additional work, money and people in a very short period of time,” he said.

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