“In many cases, the only shared accommodation option available is rooming house accommodation,” she said.
The report calls on governments to invest in self-sufficient crisis housing for the homeless while waiting for permanent housing.
The Victorian government has spent millions of dollars housing the homeless in hotels during the closures amid concerns over COVID-19 outbreaks among vulnerable populations unable to isolate themselves.
“We will be working closely with a number of organizations for the homeless to identify suitable housing options to enable people to move out of temporary hotel accommodation after the lockdown ends,” said a government spokesperson.
More than 1,500 Victorians from 1,272 households have now been moved to permanent housing as part of the Victorian government’s $ 150 million From Homelessness to a Home program.
However, many homeless find themselves on the streets or in private rooming houses when the closures end and funding for emergency hotel accommodation is cut.
“It’s heartbreaking,” says Jenny Smith, CEO of the Homeless Council.
“Homeless service providers just don’t have the low cost options to move in and that’s how people end up in these unacceptable rooming houses. “
Ms Smith said it was overwhelmingly positive that Victorian homeless people in 1,845 households were being assisted in their own homes as part of the From Homelessness to a Home program and that the Victorian government was building 9,300 new social housing units in four years.
“But when you have at least 25,000 homeless people every night in Victoria, there is clearly a long way to go.”
Ms Smith said COVID-19 is now part of the homeless population. “If you’re in those type of tight quarters that we have in rooming houses, it’s a really scary scenario to think of an infection in that space,” she said.
Last month, 38 residents of the John Cribbes House – a rooming house in Balaclava with shared kitchens and bathrooms – were locked up for two weeks after a case of COVID-19 was discovered at the facility.
The health ministry says it does not always publish exposure sites if it can “confidently and quickly” identify everyone who may have been exposed.
“We have invested over $ 155 million for coronavirus preparedness and prevention measures in high-risk housing, including rooming houses,” a government spokesperson said.
There has also been an outbreak of COVID-19 among residents of the Ibis Styles Kingsgate, one of the hotels used to accommodate the homeless.
And last week, five residents and one staff member tested positive at Ozanam House, a non-profit homeless shelter in North Melbourne.
Bevan Warner, CEO of the organization for the homeless Launch Housing, said the From Homelessness to a Home program should be expanded and people moved from hotels to safer and supported rental housing.
“We are concerned about how people will get through the next six months of the pandemic. All of the Burnet Institute modeling suggests a long tail of high COVID case loads among vulnerable communities through February or March, ”Mr. Warner said.
“What lies ahead could be the perfect storm of health and housing stress for people who are already on the margins.”
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