Homelessness and rough sleeping

Why do people experience homelessness?

People who experience homelessness are not a distinct and separate population. The line between having a home or not can change quickly, and the ways in and out of homelessness are not straightforward.

Homelessness is often caused by difficult conditions (such as finding housing and work) and individual risks (such as alcohol and substance use, health issues, and family violence). Homelessness is also likely to make any existing issues worse and can cause physical and mental health conditions.

Primary homelessness (sleeping rough), when people sleep on streets, in parks, in cars, and squat in vacant properties, is the most visible form of homelessness. But the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that people sleeping rough make up only 7% of those who are homeless in Australia.

Many people have short and one-off experiences of homelessness, but for some people it stretches into years. People might need a range of supports to get them housed. Every person’s story is unique.

How to respond to rough sleeping

If you find someone sleeping rough in Yarra, please follow the steps explained in our protocol:

How to Respond to Rough Sleeping and Squatting in Yarra protocol (221KB, PDF).

You can report a rough sleeping site to Yarra Council using our online reporting tool.

Or call Yarra City Council on 03 9205 5555 or the Launch Housing outreach team on 03 8598 1111.

What happens after a rough sleeping report is made?

We have a partnership with the homelessness outreach team at Launch Housing. We work with Launch to offer help to people sleeping rough and assess the safety of the site.

We ask Launch Housing to visit the site and work with the person on their housing and other needs, and we make sure there are no dangers or health issues for the people sleeping there or the surrounding community.

Launch Housing lets us know the status of the people they engage with, so that we understand who is sleeping rough in Yarra.

People experiencing homelessness may have a history of trauma. This can lead to behaviour that may seem antisocial and that can be confronting.

Please call Victoria Police on 000 if you see someone who:

  • seems distressed,
  • appears to be a danger to themselves or to others,
  • has a child under 18 with them, or
  • is damaging property or the environment.

Where can I get help if I'm homeless or at risk?

If you are currently experiencing or at risk of homelessness, call the Victorian Statewide Homelessness Line on 1800 825 955 (free call, open 24/7) to be connected with an Access Point in your area.

If you are experiencing family violence you can call Safe Steps on 1800 015 188 (free call, open 24/7) and speak confidentially for information on family violence support services, legal rights and accommodation options.

If you have been threatened or you are fearful for yourself, a child or a family member – call 000.

To locate services nearby – such as meals, clothes, support, showers, accommodation, or laundry services – visit Ask Izzy

What does Yarra Council do about homelessness?

All Victorians have a right to be in public places. Yarra’s approach recognises the principles of Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities in treating all people with respect and dignity and balancing our multiple duties of care to the community.

We have developed a protocol to help everyone follow these principles when responding to situations where someone is sleeping rough.

You can download the protocol here: How to Respond to Rough Sleeping and Squatting in Yarra protocol (221KB, PDF).

Yarra's Homelessness Strategy

To ensure that Yarra remains a welcoming and compassionate place for everyone, we have created a Homelessness Strategy. Our strategy informs the action we take to address the impacts of homelessness.

Guided by the strategy’s aims, we will:

  1. Deliver a coordinated and compassionate crisis response to people who are sleeping rough and those who are homeless.
  2. Focus on early intervention for people who are vulnerable or at risk to avoid homelessness and other crises.
  3. Work towards the ultimate goal of prevention by supporting an increase of affordable housing and appropriate support services.

Together we can improve outcomes for people experiencing, or at risk of homelessness.

If you would like to know more, download the strategy:

Yarra Homelessness Strategy (double page PDF)

Yarra Homelessness Strategy (single page PDF)

For all safety issues call Victoria Police on 000.

For medical emergencies call Ambulance Victoria on 000.

What if I have more questions?

If you want to know more about homelessness generally, Council to Homeless Persons has information on their website.

For a personal perspective, CHP’s Peer Education and Support Program members have experience of homelessness and are available to talk to your group or organisation.