The face of the homeless returns to unsafe boarding houses


“In many cases, the only shared accommodation option available is guesthouse accommodation,” he said.

The report calls on governments to invest in self-contained crisis accommodation for the homeless while they wait for permanent housing.


The Victorian government has spent millions of dollars to house poor sleepers in hotels during closures due to concerns about COVID-19 outbreaks among vulnerable populations who cannot isolate themselves.

“We will work closely with various homeless organizations to identify suitable housing options for transitioning people out of temporary hotel accommodation when the shutdown ends,” said a government spokesman.

More than 1,500 Victorians from 1,272 households have moved into permanent housing under the $ 150 Million Homeless Program in a Victorian government home.

Yet many homeless people end up on the streets or in private boarding houses when closures end and funds for emergency hotel accommodation are cut.

“It’s heartbreaking,” says Jenny Smith, executive director of the Council to Homeless Persons.

“Homeless service providers just don’t have the low-cost options for people to move in and that’s how people end up in these unacceptable boarding houses.”

Ms Smith said it was extremely positive that homeless Victorians from 1,845 homes were helped into their own homes under the From Homelessness to a Home Program and that the Victorian government was building 9,300 new social housing in four years.


“But when you have a minimum of 25,000 homeless people each night in Victoria, there is clearly a long road ahead.”

Ms. Smith said that COVID-19 was now in the homeless population. “If you are in those kinds of closed spaces that we have in pensions, it is a really scary scenario to think of an infection in that space,” he said.

Last month, 38 residents of John Cribbes House, a pension in Balaclava with shared kitchens and bathrooms, were locked up for two weeks after a COVID-19 case was found on the premises.

The John Cribbes home in Balaclava was closed after a COVID-19 case.

The John Cribbes home in Balaclava was closed after a COVID-19 case.Credit:Chris hopkins

The Health Department says it does not always publish exposure sites if it can “confidently and quickly” identify everyone who may have been exposed.

“We have invested more than $ 155 million in coronavirus preparedness and prevention measures in high-risk accommodations, including guest houses,” said a government spokesman.

There has also been a COVID-19 outbreak among residents of Ibis Styles Kingsgate, one of the hotels used to house the homeless.

And last week, five residents and a staff member tested positive at Ozanam House, a non-profit homeless shelter in North Melbourne.

Bevan Warner, executive director of Launch Housing, the homeless organization, said the From Homelessness to a Home program should be expanded and people moved from hotels to safer assisted rental accommodation.


“We are concerned about how people will get through the next six months of the pandemic. The entire Burnet Institute model suggests a long list of COVID cases among vulnerable communities through February or March, ”Warner said.

“What lies ahead could be the perfect storm of health and housing stress for people already on the margins.”

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