HOMELESSNESS is a problem in every community.

However, in the past few weeks, the situation has been highlighted by some concerned local residents of Wonthaggi.

The problem, they say, has been exacerbated by the lack of rental accommodation, public housing and emergency accommodation in the Bass Coast area.

Also by the closure of “last resort” accommodation at the former Miners Rest Caravan Park.

Typically, those without housing are sleeping in their cars, parked close to public toilets, near parks and other public facilities, beside commercial buildings or in the bush locally.

Wonthaggi Police say they come across people sleeping rough from time-to-time, but no more so at the moment than usual.

“They’re not likely to get into any trouble for doing so but we will endeavour to make contact, to find out what the issues are, whether they’re financial or otherwise, and try to put them in touch with some of the support agencies,” said a spokesman for the Wonthaggi Police.

“The Salvos are very good and there are other agencies as well who can help with emergency housing, clothing and food.

“They’re not all homeless. Sometimes they’re just on their way somewhere else or are sleeping out for one reason or another.

“But I wouldn’t say there are any more than usual.”

Salvocare Eastern Gippsland, provides support to Wonthaggi and the Bass Coast area from its headquarters in Long Street Leongatha, phone: (03) 5662 6400 or email: salvocare.gippsland@aus.salvationarmy.org.

Salvocare provides an immediate response and an entry point to the homelessness service system. It offers assistance with crisis and short-term housing and housing information. Information and assistance with general public housing applications and Office of Housing Bond Loans.

It can provide referral to the Housing Support Program for assistance with access to long term housing.

Council’s new strategy

The Bass Coast Shire Council has recognised the problem:

“Council has commenced the development of its Social and Affordable Housing Strategy, which will look into housing provision and support services across the Shire for all residents, including youth,” said Bass Coast Shire CEO, Ali Wastie.

“Consultation on this project has started with stakeholder discussions and will include a public exhibition of the draft Strategy in the coming months.

“This will provide the Bass Coast community, including active youth networks, a chance to share their thoughts on this important issue,” Ms Wastie said.

It’s the start of winter, the time when homelessness bites hardest; what are the other agencies doing to respond to the lack of rental accommodation and emergency housing in Bass Coast and South Gippsland?