StreetCount records 392 rough sleepers in inner Melbourne

Wednesday 04 July 2018

Image: Michael Coghlan

The first joint survey of homelessness conducted by five Melbourne councils has recorded 392 people sleeping rough across inner Melbourne. 

On Tuesday 19 June, more than 400 trained volunteers visited streets, parks and laneways to collect information on people sleeping rough in the 2018 StreetCount. 

It was the first joint count undertaken across the cities of Melbourne, Port Phillip, Yarra, Stonnington, and Maribyrnong. The City of Melbourne has undertaken the biennial count since 2008, with support from housing and homelessness agency Launch Housing. 

The count helps councils to understand rough sleeping, so they can better plan their support, services and work towards long-term solutions to address homelessness.

The 392 people were recorded in the following municipalities:

  • Melbourne: 279 people
  • Port Phillip: 65 people
  • Yarra: 29 people
  • Stonnington: 3 people
  • Maribyrnong: 16 people

The previous count in 2016 recorded 247 rough sleepers in areas totalling 20 per cent of the City of Melbourne. This year, 210 rough sleepers were counted in the same area, representing a 15 per cent decrease in rough sleepers between 2016 and 2018.

Key findings across the five municipalities:

  • 78 per cent were male, and 22 per cent were female
  • 54 per cent of people were aged 26-40, with 34 per cent aged 41-60
  • 79 per cent were Australian born
  • 14 per cent identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
  • 35 per cent of people were sleeping on the street, 13 per cent in parks and 48 per cent in various other locations including river banks
  • 42 per cent of people surveyed were on the public housing waiting list
  • 14 per cent of people surveyed had been transient for more than five years.

City of Melbourne Acting Lord Mayor Cr Arron Wood said the City of Melbourne has significantly increased coordination of homelessness agencies and support services in the CBD, in conjunction with the Victorian State Government.

“These are our city’s most vulnerable people. One person sleeping rough on the streets of Melbourne is one too many,” the Acting Lord Mayor said.

“We know that homelessness has no boundaries and this joint count means we now have a picture of homelessness across inner Melbourne like never before.”

“Homelessness is a complex issue and good data like the StreetCount helps us continually evolve our approach. Ultimately, the solution is to get people into housing but pathways out of homelessness require a case by case solution.”

City of Port Phillip Acting Mayor, Cr Dick Gross said: “This snapshot in time on one the coldest nights of the year underlines the urgent need for all levels of government, community service organisations and the private sector to continue working together on providing safe, accessible housing for the most vulnerable members of our communities.”

“The fact almost 400 people are known to have been sleeping rough in inner Melbourne that bitterly cold night is heart-breaking. We will use this data to better target our efforts with others to help people off the streets and into homes. The extreme conditions may have driven some rough sleepers to seek very short-term shelter that night – we know of one man who left his normal spot on a Port Phillip street to wait out the cold in a hospital waiting room. The human toll of homelessness is often hidden and we welcome StreetCount as an important step towards understanding and better tackling this complex social issue,” Cr Gross said.

City of Yarra Mayor, Cr Daniel Nguyen said: "By participating in StreetCount I saw firsthand the benefits of taking a collaborative approach and I urge all levels of government and the sector to continue working together to address these complex issues," Cr Nguyen said.

City of Stonnington Mayor, Cr Steve Stefanopoulos said: “No one in Melbourne should have to sleep rough. It’s great to see the five Inner Melbourne Action Plan partnered councils working together to better understand issues surrounding homelessness. Our Councils will keep working collaboratively with homelessness services, so people are not left out on the streets any night of the year. We look forward to working with the Victorian Government to maximise and improve availability of social housing in the area,” Cr Steve Stefanopoulos said.

City of Maribyrnong Deputy Mayor Cr Sarah Carter said: “The StreetCount highlights the importance of making affordable housing and temporary accommodation available to those sleeping rough. Through our new Housing Strategy, Maribyrnong City Council is committed to encouraging the development of affordable housing for people in need. This is highlighted by Council’s support for the Launch Housing development of 57 temporary affordable houses to be built on Ballarat Road in Footscray and Maidstone. This housing will provide transitional support for some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”

Acting CEO of Launch Housing, Heather Holst said: “Launch Housing is proud to collaborate with the five councils, police and other support services in Melbourne for this first multi-council StreetCount. While these numbers demonstrate a shocking state of affairs, unfortunately we are not surprised.”

“Rough sleeping is the most visible and confronting type of homelessness, but only represents a small percentage of all those experiencing homelessness. These StreetCount results demonstrate the dire need for more affordable housing both in Victoria and Australia-wide, and the numbers give us something to work with as we plan for the future. Some efforts are already starting to pay off, but we need more housing,” said Heather Holst, Acting CEO of Launch Housing.

The Victorian Government supported StreetCount through a funding contribution.


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