IN BASS Coast in the past financial year, the Salvation Army helped 804 people facing a housing crisis. Over the same period, the agency had to turn away another 769 people who asked for help.
The figures are revealed in a report to Bass Coast councillors that will form the basis of a submission to the State Government’s inquiry into homelessness.
The officer’s report reveals the shire’s most vulnerable residents are in the midst of a housing crisis and it’s about to get much worse with the closure of the Capital Motel and Miners Rest Caravan Park in Wonthaggi.
The motel and caravan have been the shire’s de facto social and crisis housing centres for hundreds of people over a couple of decades but both will be bulldozed for a new development.
Many of the residents of the caravan face a stark choice. There is no community- or government-owned social housing in Bass Coast and the cost of private rentals has risen sharply over the past year as house prices have risen.
The nearest social and public housing is in Latrobe Valley and vulnerable local residents are being encouraged to pack up and move to Moe or Morwell.
The council is seeking government funding to develop a strategy to reduce homelessness and increase emergency housing in Bass Coast.
Salvation Army Client Database
Factors in the housing crisis include a high level of disadvantage and entrenched poverty, and the lack of public housing, social housing and crisis accommodation. Bass Coast has also experienced a sharp rise in property and rental values over the past couple of years, with few properties available for rent under $300 a week.
Investment property owners are also using short-term holiday rental market operators such as Airbnb and Stayz.
Councillors expressed unanimous support for the council becoming more pro-active on the affordable housing front. Cr Julian Brown suggested tiny houses might be part of the solution. “Not everyone wants to live in a big house. Not everyone wants to accumulate as many material possessions as they can.”
Cr Stephen Fullarton thought it might be possible to convert second-hand miners’ huts for crisis accommodation. “They sell them off very cheap and if we had the land it’s certainly something we could look at.”
Tom McNish: The last resort. February 23, 2018
“I think we’ve all been blind to homelessness in our area. I was shocked to see the figures for Phillip Island. It’s an issue we need to address.”
"I had first-hand experience of coming across homelessness. Three in particular come to mind. Two families with children and one woman in her 50s, all living in cars in driveways. It’s distressing and the issue is clearly getting worse. Older women in particular are very vulnerable in our community."
“It wouldn’t be everyone’s choice but the Miners Rest serves a purpose. I wouldn’t like to be in their shoes where you’re told ‘Out of your caravan and away you go to the Valley’. It would be very demoralising for them. The people there face very worrying times.”
"For big developments, I think one lot should be for emergency accommodation or social housing. In that way we can integrate people into our community rather than them being concentrated in particular areas."