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Melbourne homeless people added to By-Name lists, aiming for ‘functional zero’

By on October 9, 2022 0

“There is this myth that homelessness is unsolvable, but we know how to end homelessness on the streets of Melbourne,” says Hatvani.

Progress has been made in the city of Port Phillip, which for years has been a hotspot for homelessness. The number of homeless fell by 30%; from a peak of 94 in September 2019 to 29 in July this year.

“It’s a preliminary result, but it’s still very, very encouraging, and it’s better than most of the other results we’ve had in our programs over the past 20 or so years,” Mayor Marcus said. Pearl.

Jenny Smith, CEO of the Council to Homeless Persons, said that while functional zero was important, the program focused on homeless people, who make up only around 5% of the wider homeless population.

“People can be very excited to be struggling with homelessness, but it’s just a small group,” she said. “You’re focusing on a very visible vulnerable group, you have to be careful to look out for vulnerable young people, women and children as well – people who haven’t been homeless for a long time.”

People remain on the list by name while sleeping rough or in crisis or in transitional housing.

They are only removed from the list if they have obtained secure long-term accommodation, moved out of the area or if services have not been able to contact them for more than 90 days.

But there are also criticisms of the functional zero.

Guy Johnson, professor of homelessness at RMIT, said it was misleading to suggest a person was no longer homeless if they had left the area or were unreachable.


“Most likely they are still homeless,” Johnson says. “Any conclusions you draw from this data will be wrong. If a community reaches functional zero, some may well interpret that it has in fact ended homelessness. And that’s probably far from the case.

When St Kilda’s Gatwick Hotel closed in 2017, Port Phillip City Services worked together to relocate those living in the infamous rooming house.

They built on this collaboration when the Port Phillip Zero pilot project began that year, meeting weekly to find tailored housing and support for each individual on the name list. Natives and people over the age of 50 have priority.

“The advantage we have now is that the information is instantaneous,” says Nicola Miles, the names list worker for the town of Port Phillip.

“We’re all sitting at our computers with our customers’ details in front of us, and we can quickly share information about whether we’ve seen them, whether they’ve accessed services.”

The key to Port Phillip Zero’s success was that 15 services worked together rather than operating separately. But there remains the challenge of the lack of social housing, with 55,000 households on the waiting list.

In July 2020, the Victorian government announced the From Homelessness to a Hotel program, providing $167 million to house and support people who have been housed in hotels during lockdowns.

Importantly, thanks to this measure, rough sleepers have been moved to a priority position on the waiting list for social housing.

“Housing has become a bit more available since the peak of the pandemic,” says Hatvani, the functional zero manager at Launch Housing.

“Our job was really to get as many people in as possible from the list of names.”

Paul with his Wintringham support worker, Lauren Finnegan.Credit:Jason South

This meant that Paul could finally be moved into accommodation and a support worker was provided by the non-profit housing and homelessness society Wintringham.

Adelaide and Brisbane are both working towards functional zero. In Victoria, Advance to Zero projects are also being rolled out in the local government areas of Dandenong, Stonnington and Frankston. Three other councils are considering them.

“Local government is a big champion of this in Victoria, philanthropy has supported this, industry has supported this,” said David Pearson, CEO of the Australian Alliance to End Homelessness, an independent organization that helps local communities to end homelessness.

“But while the Victorian government has led the way in responding to COVID, it is one of the few governments that has never invested directly in the Advance to Zero methodology.”

The government says it is funding Launch Housing to run vibrant outreach teams, which support zero functional approaches in Frankston and Dandenong and a supportive housing team in Dandenong.

In addition, the Private Housing Support Program Plus provides personalized and targeted support to help people obtain and maintain private rental accommodation.

“Andrews’ Labor Government supports innovative solutions and partnerships that aim to end roughness in our local communities,” a spokesperson said.


Paul’s support worker, Lauren Finnegan, visits him twice a week and takes him shopping and on dates. “I’ve never had this before, I find it useful,” he says. “Some days I just can’t be bothered, but if I have an appointment Lauren will call and make sure I’m ready for it.”

Paul is happy to have a roof over his head.

“I’m getting older and being on the streets wasn’t helping me much with my age and my health,” he says. ” I can not complain. At least I can go home every night.

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