Rough sleepers descend on CBD as Geelong shivers

 

ROUGH sleepers have proliferated in Geelong's central business district as temperatures plummet and the threat of coronavirus looms.

There are calls for urgent intervention to help the homeless off the streets, with compounded concern their welfare is suffering amid curtailed services.

Homeless people's possessions and bedding were set up around the Little Malop and Moorabool St areas this week.

Some services, including accommodation and drop in centres, have been closed or wound back amid the pandemic due to health and safety concerns.

CBD rough sleepers in the Mall and Moorabool street areas. Picture: Alison Wynd
CBD rough sleepers in the Mall and Moorabool street areas. Picture: Alison Wynd

Give Where You Live Foundation chief executive Bill Mithen said urgent intervention was needed, and initiatives from the not-for-profit sector and state and local governments would be welcomed.

"There just simply isn't enough housing and accommodation stock for people who are homeless, and for people sleeping rough those options have reduced even further through this crisis because some services have closed due to health and safety concerns," he said.

Both Mr Mithen and St Vincent de Paul Geelong conference president Martin Rowan suggested the visibility of rough sleepers in the city could have increased as they migrated to more sheltered areas as colder weather sets in.

Mr Rowan said Vinnies was concerned for their welfare, and had not heard from rough sleepers it would usually be in contact with.

"During the summer months they cope much better," he said.

Mr Rowan said face-to-face intervention was key to helping Geelong's rough sleepers, and that it was often difficult to contact them via phone.

City of Greater Geelong Director Community Life Robyn Stevens said council understood there were less people currently sleeping rough, due to the concerted effort to fund short-term crisis accommodation options for rough sleepers as part of the COVID-19 response.

Ms Stevens said the City was aware of the people sleeping rough in the CBD and was working with Neami National's Towards Home+ Geelong and the Victorian Government to identify a suitable solution.

 

CBD rough sleepers in the Mall and Moorabool street areas. Picture: Alison Wynd
CBD rough sleepers in the Mall and Moorabool street areas. Picture: Alison Wynd

"There are a range of Victorian Government-funded programs aimed at helping people who

are homeless or at risk," she said.

Neami National did not respond to requests for comment before deadline.

In April, it said assertive outreach workers were meeting with rough sleepers daily.

A State Government spokeswoman said more than $350,000 has been allocated to homelessness agencies across Geelong since late March.

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"This boost is helping agencies to keep people in rental properties through the Private Rental Assistance Program and get people quickly into emergency accommodation through the Housing Establishment Fund," the spokeswoman said.

"We've also funded homelessness agencies across the Barwon region to help people sleeping rough access hotel accommodation - assertive outreach teams are on the ground and engaging with people to offer this service."

Mr Rowan said rough sleepers could call the Vinnies welfare number 5221 9170 between 9am and 11.30am Monday to Friday.

Originally published as Rough sleepers descend on CBD as Geelong shivers



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