Through consumer participation and listening to the lived experiences of those who are currently using homelessness services or who have used them in the past, public policy, services and service systems can change, according to Gippsland Homelessness Network coordinator, Chris McNamara.
As part of the lead up to Homelessness Week, the Gippsland Homelessness Network supported by its members Gippsland Lakes Community Health Service, Community Housing Limited, Quantum Support Services and the Gippsland Children’s Resource Program convened a meeting to hear the voices of consumers.
The Council to Homelessness Persons Peer Education Support Program’s, Trevor Brown, spoke about his experiences of homelessness and living in a campervan for five and a half years until he was finally able to access secure housing.
Tim Bull, Member for Gippsland East, attended the meeting to hear the issues raised by the consumers and has made a commitment to meet with representatives for further discussion.
The issues raised related to the invisibility of people who are experiencing homelessness in our community, ‘if you can’t see it, we don’t have a problem’ and yet people are sleeping in cars, by the river in swags and makeshift accommodation.
There is a belief that being homeless is a choice. No-one chooses to be homeless, it can happen to anyone and does, all it takes are some unfortunate events, according to Mrs McNamara.
“There is a stigma related to being homeless, people believe and ask if you have a drug or alcohol problem and assume that you also have mental health problems,” she said.
“These are issues that can come to the fore after the trauma of homelessness. Because of this misconception we experience discrimination.”
Consumers also expressed their concern about the difficulty of navigating the complex and fragmented service system, often being turned away and sometimes giving up. The need for more public/social housing, particularly for single people, was seen as a major issue with very few alternate options. There is a very limited supply of private rental properties that are affordable to people on very low incomes such as Newstart, and for those that don’t own a vehicle, which is often the case for people on a very low income. The public transport system needs improvement so that people can access work without the need of owning a vehicle.
The attendees support the national Everbody’s Home Campaign that advocates for Victoria to build 3000 social housing properties per year for the next 10 years.
PICTURED: As part of the lead up to Homelessness Week, the Gippsland Homelessness Network, supported by its members, Gippsland Lakes Community Health Service, Community Housing Limited, Quantum Support Services and the Gippsland Children’s Resource Program, convened a meeting to hear the voices of consumers on Tuesday, July 30. PICTURED: Trevor Brown, of Council to Homelessness Persons Peer Education Support Program, Shanna Nielsen, Michael Karis, Leeann Lenane, of State Wide Children’s Resource Program, Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, and Gippsland Homelessness Network coordinator, Chris McNamara.