'Harsh reality': homelessness workers ponder quitting

Most of Victoria's homelessness workers have thought about throwing in the towel as wait times skyrocket and workloads mount, a survey shows.

The poll of more than 250 Victorian frontline homelessness workers, conducted by the Council to Homeless Persons from March 28 to April 9, revealed 65 per cent were turning away more people from their service than a year ago.

Seven out of 10 (71 per cent) confirmed their work had been busier in the past 12 months, with some despairing that none of their clients received a housing offer inside a year.

"Our team is having to deliver a very harsh reality to consumers on a daily basis: if you've just become homeless and can't access a rental, you'll wait years for social housing," one frontline worker said.

People are being forced to choose between sleeping rough or going back to violent relationships to keep a roof over their heads, another said.

"Others are incarcerated for survival crimes and released back into homelessness or a hotel for two nights," they added.

The Department of Families, Fairness and Housing's latest annual report showed public rental wait times for those fleeing family violence blew out from just over 11 months in 2020/21, to 17.1 months in 2021/22 and 23.6 months in 2022/23.

Average wait times ballooned from just over a year in 2020/21, to 15 months in 2021/22 and 18 months in 2022/23.

While Victoria's public housing waiting list fell from 58,131 in March 2023 to 50,732 in December, 27,561 families required priority access.

"Getting access to social housing is near impossible," one worker said.

"The wait list is that long that even Victoria's most vulnerable cannot access housing."

The crisis is taking its toll on frontline workers, with 55 per cent of those polled thinking about leaving the specialist homelessness sector in the past six months.

Victoria’s homelessness workforce is at breaking point, the council's chief executive Deborah Di Natale warned.

"Immediate and significant funding is needed to stop an exodus of workers that would devastate the sector and turn the homelessness crisis into a catastrophe," she said.

"Workers are burning themselves out making impossible choices every day about who to help and all too often that help is a years-long waitlist for housing that does not exist."

Public housing towers.
There are fears plans to rebuild public housing towers will exacerbate the homelessness crisis.

More than 85 per cent of respondents were concerned the Victorian government's plan to demolish and rebuild all of Melbourne's 44 public housing towers would lead to fewer allocations in the short and medium term.

Under the plan, a key pillar of Victoria's Housing Statement, the number of residents living in the estates will rise from 10,000 to 30,000 by 2051.

However, the actual number of places for social housing will only rise to 11,000 - a 10 per cent boost - with the rest to be residents from the private market.

The council is calling on the Allan government to set aside $20 billion over four years to build public and community housing, along with another $39.4 million to expand homelessness and housing intake services.

"The situation is unacceptable and untenable," Ms Di Natale said.

The Victorian state budget will be delivered on May 7.

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

Lifeline 13 11 14

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636

13YARN 13 92 76

Aboriginal Counselling Services 0410 539 905

License this article

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store