OUT of sight, out of mind; that is how many residents of the Bass Coast region perceive homelessness.
There is a daily struggle of people sleeping in their cars and couch surfing.
The Salvation Army, Bass Coast Shire councillors and Bass MP Jordan Crugnale united in Apex Park last Wednesday, August 7, to raise awareness on hidden homelessness in Victoria.
Alongside supporting the cause was the Wonthaggi Lions Club, cooking up a free BBQ for the community and voicing their concerns that this fearful issue needs to be in the forefront of our minds.
Erin Price of the Salvation Army spoke of the important issue that is stereotyped by so many.
“There are so many myths around homelessness, and we need to overcome these absurd opinions and see it for what it truly is,” she said.
“The opinion that we don’t have homeless people in Bass Coast is only based on what the public sees, but did you know that only 7 per cent of people that experience homelessness are visible?
“The perception that those that are homeless and live on the streets do so because they suffer from drug and alcohol abuse is the most common myth,” said Erin.
About 60 per cent of people experiencing homelessness do not have a drug or alcohol problem, too many are forced from their homes due to family violence and therefore develop mental health issues from these traumatising experiences.
Most are poor through loss of employment, illness, disability or even family breakdown, often women and children are left with nowhere to go and no support, giving them no other choice but to couch surf between relatives or even live out of their cars.
Mayor Cr Brett Tessari spoke of his shock to witness the confronting issue after visiting a shelter in Melbourne last month and living with the guilt that this is the daily life of so many.
“Cr Bruce Kent and I have a plan in place after raising the issue with the Federal Government last month. We attended meetings with ministers in Canberra to request funding for Bass Coast and tackle this issue,” said Cr Tessari.
Cr Kent added: “We believe receiving funding from Federal Government is a goal within reach, our case was heard, and our plan is underway to resolve this issue.
“This is a challenging issue and we all know it will be a slow process but it’s one that we are facing and putting at the forefront of council to say we need to fix this and have housing accessible for those in urgent need,” said Cr Kent.
The council’s advocating for $1.25 million to go towards crisis accommodation, public housing and private affordable rentals.
Bass MP Jordan Crugnale said: “We see the statistics that housing is severely overcrowded, we hear of people couch surfing and the statistics of rough sleeping is just alarming.
“Beside these statistics are real people, those with their own stories and therefore are struggling because of horrifying circumstances,” said Ms Crugnale.
You can make a difference by simply buying and then donating an extra tin of food at the supermarket during your weekly shop, or donating old goods through the Salvos store.
“These contributions may not be seen as much, but to those in need it means the world,” said Erin.
To donate today or speak to a housing and support worker, call 1800 825 955.
Hidden homeless in Bass Coast – they say