Our club was pleased to welcome Carol Muir the CEO of Uniting Care Werribee
CEO Carol Muir from Uniting care Werribee Support and Housing was guest speaker on Wednesday 12 October 2016
Support and Housing to our meeting on Wednesday 12 October 2016. Carol shared with us a snapshot of all the work her organisation does. The success and ability to support so many people of Wyndham is owed to the amazing support and dedication of its volunteers and the generous residents of Wyndham.
Below is an outline of the information Carol shared with us.
Uniting Care Werribee Support & Housing has been advocating to state and federal governments, for homelessness resources – both infrastructure and human resources – for the past 16 years, with limited to no success. Wyndham has a longstanding partnership within a consortium of housing and homelessness agencies in the local area – the partnership is called H3 Wyndham. Through this partnership, Wyndham has advocated for the establishment of a housing and support hub for the past six years. Some growth corridors have received an injection of homelessness funding and services, but Wyndham always seems to miss out.
There is strong evidence to suggest that a coordinated approach for the delivery of human services is much more effective than discreet specialist services, particularly for people who are experiencing high levels of vulnerability. Put simply, it is better for everyone involved if we can avoid crisis.
The Wyndham Integrated Service Hub aims to break this cycle through the provision of a complementary preventative and early intervention response, alongside provision of emergency accommodation and support. H3 Wyndham submitted, in December 2015, a proposal for the establishment of the H3 Wyndham Integrated Services Hub for consideration for the Victorian Government’s 2016/17 budget. The business case was developed following meetings with Minister Foley and the then-Director of Housing. H3 Wyndham has received a response to this indicating the proposal has not been seen to be a State Government priority at this stage.
A recent article in the Herald Sun noted that many people sleeping rough in the Melbourne CBD come from the outer suburbs. It is understood that this is a result of a lack of resourcing in our local area. Even though Wyndham is the size of Geelong (and will soon grow to the size of Canberra), many services are out of reach from inner-metropolitan areas.
On 11 August, Wyndham and homeless clients of UCWS&H featured on the ABC’s national program, Late Line. Currently, the homelessness service system in Wyndham is very much geared towards the provision of emergency and/or tertiary support. This means that even if an individual is fortunate enough to receive emergency housing support, they are unlikely to be assisted to address any of their underlying issues or barriers such as unemployment, family breakdown or poor mental health. As a result, it is not uncommon for such individuals to enter a long term cycle of homelessness, ensuing in significant personal, social and economic costs. Residents are required to leave Wyndham to access crisis housing – Geelong or St. Kilda.
Importantly, Wyndham has had a huge increase in rough sleepers over the last six months. In the past 3 months, there have been 9 separate occurrences of individuals and couples sleeping in their cars in the rear car park at UCWS&H including 4 single adults sleeping is swags under our verandas for protection from the elements. Similar stories have been reported from other local support agencies, the local football club and Werribee Equestrian Centre, and Wyndham Council’s local laws team say they’ve never seen this number of people sleeping rough previously. As one of Australia’s fastest growing municipalities, these issues should be considered to be escalating in nature.
Carol sitting with Rotarian Nik discussing the issue of lack of housing in the Wyndham area.
Some other key points to take note of:
• Homelessness services have recorded a doubling of demand from Wyndham residents in the past three years, now a much more significant proportion of total demand regionally.
• Quadrupling of homelessness numbers from last two Censuses. At the last count, more than 400 people are homeless in Wyndham on any night – but we know this number has multiplied.
• Wyndham has by far the highest number of forced rental evictions in the state – VCAT data is available.
• Wyndham has 2 of the top 8 postcodes for ‘Mortgage delinquency’ in Victoria.
• Wyndham has one of the highest numbers of family violence incidents in the state, the primary cause of homelessness in Australia.
• Wyndham has areas of concentrated disadvantage at lowest decile in the SEIFA index (i.e. most disadvantaged in Australia). The choice for Wyndham families between paying for rent, food or bills is demonstrated in our municipality having the highest energy disconnections in the state. Despite Federal government funding cuts for Emergency Relief, UCWS&H has noted an increase in requests for food support over the past 12 months. Client data indicates an increase in those experiencing redundancies, and an even greater casualisation of the work force, with many clients unable to secure enough hours of paid employment.
• There are no local accommodation options or programs within Wyndham for young people.
• Young people exiting the care of DHHS when orders are terminated on their 18th birthday. Most young people are not asked to leave their home by their (foster care) parents they turn 18. This has the flow on effect that less space is available to take on more children in need of fostering.
We thank Carol for coming to our meeting and sharing this valuable insight into issues that are not highly publicised and hope that through of Community Committee we can work with Carol and her team and find ways that we can support the organisation now and into the future.