'Crisis' over Knox emergency housing

INCREASING numbers of Knox families are facing a housing crisis with demand for emergency accommodation up 25 per cent.

Mark Dixon, UnitingCare Harrison general manager of homelessness services, said the organisation had already exhausted its government-provided funds that were meant to last until the end of the December.

"It's a strain on resources. We either send them away to stick to budget, or use the church-donated funds — so that's what we've dipped into."

Shadow housing minister Richard Wynne said housing was at crisis point statewide.

"Our advice is that every homelessness service in the state has been overwhelmed by demand."

He said it was "no surprise because the Baillieu government has provided no new funding in the past two budgets to purchase or construct new public or social housing".

A spokeswoman for Housing Minister Wendy Lovell said the state government had committed an additional $92 million to homelessness services since being elected.

She said a $76.7 million action plan recognised that new approaches were needed to address the cause of homelessness. The most recent census data from 2011 shows that homelessness has increased nationally by 17 per cent since 2006.

Mr Dixon said the growing demand was affecting his service's Open Door program that helps move homeless people into safe and affordable housing.

"There are only a certain amount of properties and there are only a certain amount of funds we have," Mr Dixon said. The strain on resources was having a ripple effect on other programs the service provided because the church-donated funds would usually pay for food vouchers.

Mr Dixon compared the Open Door program to triage at a hospital: "We deal with the results of a lack of affordable housing."

He said the service was continuing to pressure the state and federal governments to provide more affordable housing. Mr Dixon warned there was likely to be even higher demand over Christmas because UnitingCare Harrison was one of the only providers open every day.

There was an increased need for assistance over the Christmas season because of family conflict and financial pressures, he said.

The government spokesman said the state hoped to reform the funding of homelessness services.

Organisations such as Uniting Care Harrison would be consulted.

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