Issues of mental health are inextricably linked to housing security and homelessness.
We process up to 7,000 calls each year through our Tenants Advice Line. Of the tenants we assist, we estimate that at least 20 per cent are impacted by a mental health issue, and that for half of that group, their mental health is having a clear, severe effect on their day to day lives.
Mental ill-health is often a contributing factor of becoming homeless, either by making it more difficult for housing to be afforded or for tenancies to be maintained.
A safe, secure home can not only ameliorate a person’s mental ill-health, but a lack of housing can exacerbate, or create, mental ill-health.
Victorian Specialist Homelessness Services are reporting increases in the amount of clients presenting for housing assistance who are also experiencing mental ill-health, and Victorian services assist a higher number of people experiencing mental ill-health than the national average.
In most states and territories around Australia the proportion of people in the population that are homeless is decreasing. In Victoria (and New South Wales), the proportion is increasing.
Despite this, the Victorian Government spends less than half the national average per capita on social housing each year, and Victoria has the lowest proportion of social housing in overall housing stock in Australia.
Only direct government investment in public housing can address these deep social issues.
Even the Victorian Government’s pledge to accept every recommendation made by the Royal Commission will not meaningfully address the mental health concerns of Victorians unless our social and affordable housing crisis is also tackled.
Our submission to the Royal Commission calls for a drastic increase in new public housing properties – at least 2,000 every year – because housing is an essential component of Government service delivery and infrastructure.
Among other things, we’re also calling for better systems integration, greater resourcing of housing and support service staff so they can meet the growing demands for assistance and a mental health housing taskforce to get people in to homes as a matter of priority.
Read the submission here.