Homelessness Week (1-7 August 2022) aims to raise awareness about people experiencing homelessness in our community. People are considered homeless when they don’t have safe, secure and appropriate accommodation. Homelessness can include sleeping rough, couch surfing or seeking shelter in a car.
Homelessness can be caused by complex social, economic and health-related factors such as:
- loss of employment
- mental health
- family breakdown
- family violence.
The COVID-19 pandemic is also causing more challenges for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
Homelessness in the City of Boroondara
Homelessness is a growing problem around Australia, including in the City of Boroondara. Census data reveals that the number of people experiencing homelessness in Boroondara increased from 383 people in 2011 to 426 people in 2016. 2021 Census data will be released early in 2023.
We developed the City of Boroondara Homelessness Protocol to make sure that people experiencing homelessness are:
- treated with dignity and respect
- offered relevant support services.
Homelessness Week encourages sharing of stories and understanding of those who have experienced homelessness.
A resident at Servants Community Housing’s perspective
Brent Soltan first experienced homelessness at age 16 when mental health issues and substance abuse led to strain on his family household. After 20 years of homelessness, Brent became a resident at Servants Community Housing two years ago. Servants Community Housing in Boroondara is a not-for-profit organisation that supports people at risk of homelessness.
For Brent, access to long term housing gives him hope and stability. Most shelters provide only temporary accommodation, and Brent describes how mentally and emotionally draining this uncertainty can be. It’s “always on your mind…‘where am I going to sleep that’s going to be warm and safe?’ and ‘when am I going to get my next meal?’” The long-term accommodation and daily hot meals offered by Servants Community Housing have provided Brent the stability to mend his relationship with his family, as well as undertake a Diploma in Social Science, which he is currently completing online at Open Universities Australia. Brent plans to use his diploma to become a drug and alcohol counsellor for youth, “so they don’t have to go through the same experience that I went through”.
Brent is hopeful that Homelessness Week can raise awareness and start to change public attitudes toward people experiencing homelessness. Brent recognises there are lots of misconceptions about people experiencing homelessness, “They’re not bad people at all, they’re just going through a hard time. We all go through hard times, but some do it harder than others.”
A Servants Community house manager’s perspective
Since 2020, Belinda Battey has been living in and volunteering as a house manager at Servants Community Housing, getting to know the residents such as Brent, who have become like family. Through this experience, Belinda has a unique perspective on the importance of Homelessness Week.
For Belinda, the week is particularly important in helping to increase community understanding and breaking down the stigma around people experiencing homelessness. “This week really brings to light what homelessness actually is - it’s much more than the person sitting out the front of your supermarket… people who are homeless are still people. Whatever the reason for becoming homeless, every person deserves a safe place to live”.
At Servants Community Housing, residents are provided with more than a safe place to live. They are provided a sense of community and belonging, connecting with one another over shared meals and having the opportunity to participate in activities like gardening and sports.
There is so much that we as a community can do to support those experiencing or at risk of homelessness and Belinda encourages you to reach out if you want to get hands on at Servants Community Housing. Belinda recalls a group of local mums who reached out during COVID-19 to provide support. “Now they come along and cook BBQs while their teenage sons play basketball with some of our residents”.
If you would like to get involved, please contact Servants Community Housing using the contact details on the Servants Community Housing website-external site.
Belinda was recognised as the 2022 Boroondara Young Citizen of the Year for her volunteering with Servants Community Housing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Listen to the Homelessness Week episode of the Youth bloom podcast
Boroondara Youth has produced a special episode of their ‘Bloom’ podcast for Homelessness Week. Hosted by two Boroondara young people, Hayley Cheung and Nia McCatty, the podcast features Belinda Battey, Boroondara Young Citizen of the Year 2022, who is a volunteer live-in house manager at Boroondara’s Servants Community Housing, and Brea Dorsett, youth homelessness advocate with her own experience of homelessness. The four discuss the challenges and misconceptions around homelessness, and what our community can do to make a difference.
To listen to the podcast, visit our Bloom podcast page.
Learn more about homelessness
To help young people better understand the causes and complexities of homelessness to reduce stereotypes and stigma, we have created ‘Homelessness: A Resource and Education Guide’. This guide also provides useful information about local services and resources where you can find support or get involved to combat homelessness. You can access this guide below.
Download our education guide
Support for people experiencing homelessness
We’re committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of everyone in our community, and we work closely with the Salvation Army to organise outreach support for people who are sleeping rough, and advocate to the State Government for more and better social housing.
For details of how you can support local organisations that help people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, visit our Housing and homelessness page.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact the Safer Communities Planner (Homelessness) on (03) 9278 4326. They can help connect you or the person experiencing homelessness to essential services.