Homelessness in the spotlight

Inspire Hope is tackling homelessness in Brimbank. (Damjan Janevski) 235888_01

Tara Murray

This week will be like most other weeks for local charity Inspire Hope.

The organisation’s Tamara Carr, along with her team of volunteers, will be offering support to people sleeping rough in Melbourne’s west, providing basics like food and clothing, and helping them get to appointments.

But this week is also Homelessness Week, with Ms Carr keen to use the opportunity to advocate for everyone to work together to end homelessness once and for all.

Ms Carr said that most homelessness is hidden.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen an increase in people sleeping rough,” she said.

“But we know that there are a lot more people who are sleeping on couches and living in overcrowded housing.

“Without adequate housing and support, we may be seeing some of these people sleeping rough in the next six to 12 months.”

Ms Carr said more resources were needed in Melbourne’s west.

Inspire Hope set up a support program in St Albans last year to help residents who were in need.

It has also set up a weekly lunch at the Tin Shed in St Albans.

“We work with a lot of different services, including health, housing and homelessness services,” Ms Carr said.

“Everyone is doing their best but we just need more funding, more staff, and more support, particularly as we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It just breaks my heart when people can’t get the help and support they desperately need.

“The cost of housing has doubled in the last 10 years in Sunshine and St Albans. Some of the people we support just can’t afford to pay their rent, particularly now that JobSeeker payments have been reduced.

“We know it’s a big problem and governments are starting to pay attention, but we need more investment in Melbourne’s west to really make a difference.”

Brimbank council and the Sunshine Salvation Army are among others who have raised concerns about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has had on local residents, many who find themselves homeless.

Ms Carr urged everyone to take part in the Census on August 10 to help organisations better understand the extent of Brimbank’s homelessness problem.

“Understanding the scale of homelessness is critical to attract enough support,” she said.

“That’s why we are working with the [Australian Bureau of Statistics] on this year’s Census to get a better idea of the number of people sleeping rough in Brimbank.

“It is completely anonymous, support is available and, most importantly, it will help us get the resources we need.”