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There are just as many causes of homelessness as there are different faces. Homelessness can affect anyone; however, some people are more at risk of experiencing episodic or recurring homelessness due to personal and structural risk factors. Personal risk factors may include, for example, mental health issues or experiencing family violence. Structural risk factors are social factors that can lead to disadvantage and increased vulnerability to homelessness, for example housing affordability or unemployment rates.

In 2018–19, one in 57 Victorians accessed a government-funded homelessness service, a high figure but one which is likely to underestimate the extent of the issue. This problem of understanding who and how many people are homeless is compounded further by the transitory nature of homelessness, where the total number of people experiencing homelessness can change on any given day. The Committee believes that more work needs to be done to improve reporting strategies for recording Victoria’s homeless population.

Report structure:

This report has been structured to first provide an overview of homelessness in Victoria and then follow the service pathway of the homelessness sector from early intervention and prevention to crisis, transitional and long-term accommodation and support. Chapter 1 provides information about the inquiry. Chapter 2 provides an analysis of the current picture of homelessness in Victoria and Chapter 3 gives an overview of the governance structure of the housing and homelessness portfolio as well as of the homelessness sector.

Subsequently, Chapters 4 to 6 follow the homelessness service pathway. There are many intersecting issues across the pathway and not all people will enter at the same point. However, following the pathway from its earliest point (early intervention) towards longer term outcomes demonstrates that the ideal pathway is one from early intervention directly into long-term, secure housing—but that the reality facing vulnerable Victorians does not always match this linear pathway. Instead, people accessing housing and homelessness services very rarely move through it in a linear fashion. Rather, they enter, exit and sometimes re-enter at different points and for different periods of time. In the Committee’s view this speaks to the complexity of homelessness and housing precariousness faced by thousands of Victorians.

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