Smith asked Treasurer Tim Pallas about the cuts to the program at the Australian Social Services Council’s post-budget breakfast. He said that the government was dealing with homelessness in a substantial way.
“It’s a bit unfair to compare peak COVID response funding to what constitutes a continued need,” Pallas said.
The $75 million spent includes funding for an Indigenous homelessness access point to provide a culturally appropriate response to Indigenous homelessness needs and $24 million for new housing to helping Victorians who need help keeping their homes.
Smith said scrapping the program could end up costing the government more.
“We will see these people lose their homes without sufficient support and return to emergency rooms, hospital beds and jails in our community. [which are] much more expensive responses,” she said. “We won’t save money, we will end up spending it.”
One of the service providers in the From Homelessness to a Home program is Wintringham, the country’s largest provider for older homeless people in Australia.
Wintringham Managing Director and Founder Bryan Lipmann said From Homelessness to a Home was one of the most innovative and exciting programs he had been involved in.
“It’s a wonderful program because it’s the holy grail of homelessness, it connects support and housing and I don’t know of any other program that does that,” he said. “It is distressing to know that it is going to be reduced. People have, for the first time in some cases, a room of their own.
Lipmann said some problems are unsolvable, but homelessness is due to a combination of housing and support, which From Homelessness to a Home provides.
“It’s a wonderful program that shouldn’t be cut, it should be expanded, it’s global best practice,” he said.
The former St Andrew sleeper, 51, slept in his van in Melbourne before being accommodated in hotels under the scheme during the pandemic.
Andrew said he was constantly in fight or flight mode until he received support through the program.
“There’s a kind of hierarchy of needs you have when you’re homeless and the first hierarchy is a safe place to sleep, the second is food, then comes the power to turn on your phone, then comes the toilet, then comes, if you’re lucky, showers,” he said. “I only took a shower once a week.”
Nine months ago, Andrew was placed in a home for the first time under the program, an experience he says was very difficult at first.
“I used to be moved, so it didn’t really feel like the house belonged to me,” he said. “I felt like home was going to be taken away from me any moment. So it took a long time to get over that kind of feeling that I had.
Andrew said what made the difference were the support services where Wintringham staff visited him weekly and encouraged him to join a creative writing group, go bowling and go football.
“It made a huge difference,” he said. “I go out every day now, out of the house. I reconnect with society.
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