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Beginners' Guide to Confronting Homelessness Forum attracts 110 attendees.

The Community Forum "Beginners' Guide to Confronting Homelessness" held at the RSL Memorial Hall Prahran on 5th February, attracted an audience of 110 Rotarians, local government representatives, new local MP Sam Hibbins and Hon. Georgie Crozier, plus local community members.

The expert panel, comprising Jo Swift (CEO Kids Under Cover), Tracey Swadling (Prahran Mission's Regional Operations Manager, Bayside), Rob Ellis (Crisis Services St. Kilda for Salvation Army), Linda Bradley (Women's Crisis Accommodation Sacred Heart Mission) and Sen. Sgt Dagmar Andersen (Victoria Police, Officer in Charge - Prahran Proactive Unit) provided many answers and insights into the people suffering from and at risk of homelessness.

While there are still many questions to answer and no 'silver bullet' solution, some points of interest raised included:

  • Homelessness is a symptom of other problems, not a stand alone issue
  • The causes of homelessness include family violence and family breakdown, mental illness, substance abuse, inability to find or afford permanent housing
  • A key problem is no Housing Minister and uncertain funding to maintain or increase support services
  • While beggars and people sleeping rough are the visible face of homelessness, the majority of homeless people can be couch surfing, living in crowded and unsafe boarding houses, cars or other temporary accommodations.
  • All panellists support the engagement of the community with the homeless, acknowledging that they are people not far removed from the rest of us, and even a conversation and smile can help them get through the day.
  • Some people don't identify as homeless, eg. youth couch surfing from one friend's home to another, only realising they are homeless when they wear out their welcome everywhere.
  • Many women & kids who can't afford to move, endure family violence rather than become homeless
  • A major problem that Rotarians can help address is the provision of affordable rental accommodation (investment properties, bungalows, caravans, under utilised holiday homes, maybe even spare rooms).

Rotary Club of Prahran will work with all the attending agencies to develop an action plan that will enable Rotarians to assist them in their work. No Australian should be without a safe, secure home!

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