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Media Release - Get involved in the effort to ‘Can Homelessness!’

Growing homelessness in Knox has been the catalyst for a new partnership between Council and Knox InfoLink, designed to provide canned food for those experiencing, or being at risk of, homelessness.

The ‘Can Homelessness’ initiative, run during National Homelessness Week (4 – 10 August 2019), aims to encourage donations of canned food from local residents, businesses, community members and Council staff.

In Australia, one person in every 200 (a total of 116,000 people) experience homelessness on any given night of the week. The rate of homelessness in Knox has increased by 46% in recent years, with increasing anecdotal evidence of people sleeping rough in local parks and reserves.

The main causes of homelessness are poverty and unaffordable rent, along with over half of all homeless people citing family violence and relationship breakdown as the main reason for seeking housing support.

Council has worked in partnership with Knox InfoLink to establish multiple donation points across Knox where people can make a donation of canned food. These will, in turn, be distributed by Knox InfoLink to people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness.

Council recently released its Homelessness Policy and committed $60,000 funding to help local churches continue the Winter Sleep-out Program. In particular, the Homelessness Policy outlines Council’s commitment to strong ongoing advocacy to the State and Federal Government in tackling complex, systemic and societal-wide issues underpinning the growth of homelessness.

Donations of single serve, ring-pull canned food can be made during August at the following locations:

  • Knox Civic Centre, 511 Burwood Hwy, Wantirna South.
  • Bayswater, Boronia and Rowville libraries.
  • Knox Leisureworks, 35 Tormore Rd, Boronia.

John's story

John* was an 80 year old man who was living in private rental in a bungalow at the back of a private residence. John was given made to feel very uncomfortable and it was made clear that he was not wanted there as the owner wanted to place the property on the market to sell. John had no skills or understanding on how to look for affordable accommodation.

John approached his neighbour Mary feeling very stressed and confused. Mary who is a very community minded person started to do some investigations around what services are available in Knox for John who was facing homelessness.

Mary contacted Department of Health & Human services (DHHS) for housing assistance and was informed to contact the Knox City Council housing support program. The council have specific housing nomination rights for public housing in the Knox Region and they would be able to assist.

In April, 2016, Mary contacted the Housing Support Officer and arranged for John to come into the Knox Council for an appointment. All paperwork was completed for DHHS and sent through for approval. John deemed eligible for public housing was now on the Knox Council waiting list prioritise as urgent for housing.

Within a month his public application was approved and now on the waiting list with both DHHS and council. Within a short period of time, a bedsit became available in one of the housing estates that the council have nomination rights. John was offered a bedsit, which is a small one-roomed unit of accommodation typically consisting of combined bedroom and sitting room with cooking facilities and separate bathroom.

John had no hesitation in accepting this unfurnished bedsit. Through the assistance of the Salvation Army Eastern, a bed and a fridge was organised to help John settle into his new home.

Without good community minded citizens like Mary, John may have been facing being homeless on our streets.

*Note: the name has been changed for privacy reasons.

Quotes attributable to Mayor, Cr Jake Keogh:

  • Growing homelessness on our streets, and in our parks and reserves, should be a source of national shame.
  • While local government doesn’t have the financial capacity to solve an issue as complex as this one, we can show moral leadership through initiatives such as ‘Can Homelessness’.
  • There’s no way to put a ‘positive spin’ on people not knowing where they’ll be sleeping on a nightly basis, with all the associated fear and stigma that that brings.
  • So while ‘Can Homelessness’ is all about sparing a thought for those currently doing it tough, it’s also a clarion call for action by governments at a state and federal level.
  • We can’t bury our heads in the sand, we need more affordable housing now and a better and more empathetic understanding and response to the underlying causes of homelessness.

Quotes attributable Mary Davie (community member):

  • As John’s story showed, it’s only too easy these days to find yourself in a situation where a secure roof over your head is just wishful thinking.
  • Luckily, in John’s case, we were able to work with Council and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in finding alternative and secure accommodation.
  • Today, John is in a much better place because of the assistance he was able to access, and it should not be hard to replicate that type of model for others facing the same situation – all it takes is a bit of political will-power.
  • Council and Knox InfoLink are demonstrating leadership at a local level with ‘Can Homelessness’, however we need to see a similar resolve in Canberra and also, Spring Street.

Issued: Monday 5 August 2019
Knox Community and Council Plan 2017-2021

Knox Community and Council Plan 2017-2021 Reference:

Goal 2. We have housing to meet our changing needs.

Strategy 2.1 - Plan for a diversity of housing in appropriate locations.

Strategy 2.3 - Support the delivery of a range of housing that addresses housing and living affordability needs.

Goal 6. We are healthy, happy and well

Strategy 6.1 - Mitigate lifestyle risks such as smoking, risky alcohol consumption and drug use, obesity, lack of physical activity and poor nutrition.

Strategy 6.2 - Support the community to enable positive physical and mental health.

Goal 7. We are inclusive, feel a sense of belonging and value our identity

Strategy 7.3 - Strengthen community connections

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