By Jessica Harrison
A TENT here or there, a car parked for a long time in the street, or a young woman washing in the basins at the shopping centre toilets may be subtle signs that not everyone in our coastal community has a roof over their heads.
Until now, The Miners Rest Caravan Park and the adjoining Capital Motel in Wonthaggi were the place of last resort for a place to stay.
Now they are due for demolition and the residents must find alternative housing by July 2020. As caravans are removed, the site is becoming more desolate for the remaining people. Salvocare, the Salvation Army housing agency, is doing what it can to help people relocate, but there are very few housing options for people living on low incomes.
But all is not lost.
Our community has a powerful history of mutual aid, and ideas for housing solutions are flowing. A community-owned caravan park, incentives for private landowners to host tiny houses, partnering with the Victorian Government and dedicated philanthropists, and a freeze on rents are some suggestions by community members.
The Bass Coast Shire Council will make a submission to the Victorian Government’s Parliamentary Inquiry into Homelessness and has produced a “Key Themes” document in preparation. It includes statistics from the SAMIS database showing that the requests for crisis accommodation to SalvoCare Eastern have increased by 47 per cent since 2016.* In Bass Coast and South Gippsland in 2018/2019, SalvoCare Eastern had to turn away 769 people.
The council will also seek state government funding to complete an evidence based housing strategy.
The Wonthaggi Branch of the Australian Unemployed Workers Union has members who have lived at the Miners Rest and the issue concerns us greatly.
The Union has launched a petition asking the council to fund transitional housing in the 2020 budget, and to encourage developers to make a percentage of new developments accessible and affordable, in step with other Victorian local governments. You can sign the petition at Mitchell House, 6 Murray Street, Wonthaggi.
We are also hosting a public forum on homelessness in Bass Coast. Speakers are Howard Marosi (Defend and Extend Public Housing, Melbourne), Dr Joe Toscano (Public Interests Before Corporate Interests) and Jessica Harrison (Australian Unemployed Workers Union, Wonthaggi Branch). The forum will be chaired by Cr Geoff Ellis. Thanks to the council, which has made the venue available to us free of charge.
Homeless forum, foyer of the Wonthaggi Town Hall, Saturday February 29, 2-4pm. Inquiries 0407 307 231 or email@example.com. Hosted by the Wonthaggi Branch, Australian Unemployed Workers Union.