Uncertainty hangs over Victorian homeless people in hotel rooms during coronavirus crisis
Ask Wayne Clark if the hotel rooms he’s been staying in for the past three months are better than the four rooming houses he’s been living in since August of last year, and he’ll just say, “That was a godsend.”
- Wayne Clark has accommodation at the moment but it’s far from stable and he has to pay for it
- Around 2,000 homeless people currently live in hotels in Melbourne
- Homeless advocates say this is a fantastic opportunity to find a permanent solution for those without safe housing
The 54-year-old has been homeless for about 18 months after breaking up a relationship.
He needed a third back surgery for an injury at work just as the pandemic struck.
His transfer to a hotel in Melbourne’s CBD meant escaping rooming houses where he was paying $ 250 a week.
“If you’re lucky you have a few mattresses that were pretty gross to sleep on. Places were usually full of bedbugs, cockroaches,” he said.
The first one he moved into he was told if you leave food in the fridge don’t expect it to be there tomorrow.
“It’s just nice to have a peaceful place to go back to without having to worry about people knocking on your door… with rooming houses, everyone wants something from you,” he said. .
“No one has ever had anything.”
Although he is grateful, it was not a dream salvation.
He had to call his housing service provider every week or so to find out how much longer he could stay and how much he should contribute.
“It’s gone from $ 100 [per fortnight] at $ 200 to $ 340 to $ 450. Tomorrow I have to contribute $ 215, so it’s still different, ”he said.
“So, I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going on.”
A Victorian government spokesperson said it was common practice for homelessness agencies to ask people to co-pay.
“However, during the coronavirus pandemic, the department ensured that it was optional and that the person will receive accommodation regardless of their decision,” the spokesperson said.
But Wayne said it wasn’t his experience.
He said last Monday that he was told there was “no more government funding for Unison,” one of the housing agencies that obtain public funds to organize accommodation.
He said it forced him to go out on the streets for two nights, with dire consequences.
“I received no warning. That Monday night, when I moved, I had to take all my things with me,” he said.
“Almost everything I had was taken.”
Unison’s Director of Housing and Homelessness Sue Grigg admitted tough decisions had to be made as the state government sharply downgraded spending on emergency shelter when it seemed like the situation was improving.
“Without any advice regarding increasing funding beyond July, Unison, along with other homeless services, were struggling to cut spending until the recent spike in infections in Melbourne,” a- she declared.
After raising his case with lawyers, Wayne found his way back to a hotel and is still there – for now.
New insight into why hotel rooms aren’t the only answer for homeless people
Ashley *, 21, has also found her three hotel accommodation placements over the past two weeks intimidating.
Even after 18 months in and out of shelters and friends’ couches on and off, she said hotel rooms were “a little scary.”
“I’m not going to lie because some of the accommodations they put us in, I have a few other people staying there who are not safe,” she said.
New data from the Council to Homeless Persons suggests that around 2,000 people are currently staying at the hotel in Melbourne alone.
60 percent of them have high support needs – to deal with serious mental issues or chronic health issues.
At least 40 percent have experienced prolonged periods of homelessness, including the streets, which means they will find it difficult to rent private accommodation.
Accommodation funding is only guaranteed until the end of July.
The state government did not extend this commitment, even with the extended lockdown.
It is estimated that $ 15 million has been spent so far on this solution, which supporters say could build many social housing units.
A “golden” moment to find a permanent solution to homelessness
Kate Colvin, acting CEO of the Council to Homeless Persons, said it was a “golden moment” of opportunity to build momentum in this health response to the coronavirus and forge a permanent solution to the free. shelter.
“This is actually a fantastic opportunity,” she said.
She said that all of these people are now in one place and can easily be helped with housing.
“We have all the people who are generally very difficult to hire and who could live in rooming houses, surf on sofas, sleep on the streets, spread across a myriad of types of places,” she said. .
“If only we had the support workers and housing packages to help people, we will end homelessness for thousands of Victorians right now.”
Sue Grigg of Unison said purchasing hotel accommodation would always be an expensive and temporary solution.
“This draws attention to the lack of permanent affordable housing in Victoria, especially for singles,” she said.
“It is time for local, state and federal governments to commit to working with the community housing sector to invest in badly needed good quality social housing.
Wayne Clark hopes the pandemic can help expose and eliminate our hidden ailments.
“I mean, I wouldn’t say it’s a good thing, but the arrival of the coronavirus has kind of made a lot of people sit down and watch what’s going on with homelessness,” a- he declared.
* Ashley didn’t want her real name used for privacy reasons.