cohealth has welcomed the recommendation from a Parliamentary Inquiry into Homelessness in Victoria to boost affordable, long-term housing, with the community health service reiterating that housing must be integrated with efforts to address the long-term impacts of homelessness on people’s physical, mental and social health.
“Having access to decent housing is one of the most significant drivers of good health. Without safe and secure accommodation, people are exposed to extreme temperatures, violence, unhygienic living conditions, greater contact with communicable disease and have little control over their living space or who they share it with,” said Ms Nicole Bartholomeusz, Chief Executive, cohealth.
“The Victorian Government has recently announced a monumental $5.3 billion investment in public and community social housing and the Parliamentary Committee has recommended that this level of resourcing needs to be extended until every Victorian has a safe, affordable home.”
Ms Bartholomeusz pointed to the health and social impacts of a lack of housing.
“Life on the streets, in squats, couch surfing and in rooming houses is deeply damaging to people’s physical and mental health, but also to their social connections, and the impacts are long-lasting” said Ms Bartholomeusz.
“That’s why health and social support programs targeted at people experiencing homelessness are so vital both during their experience of homelessness, and after they’ve secured housing,” she said.
Despite their poorer health, people experiencing homelessness are less likely to access mainstream health services due to fear of judgement, lack of finances or logistical barriers such as being unable to travel,” she said.
cohealth’s Central City homelessness service in Melbourne’s CBD provides free GPs, mental health outreach, alcohol and drug counselling, physiotherapy, exercise physiology, podiatry, dietetics and family violence counselling, as well as access to showers, laundry and meals.
Complementing the clinic is cohealth’s Street Doctor mobile van which travels to homeless hot spots in the City of Melbourne to deliver health care.
Ms Bartholomeusz also highlighted the intensive process of supporting people to re-establish social connection after long periods of homelessness.
“It’s not simply a matter of handing people the key to a home. They need support to address their trauma, re-connect with society and re-learn living skills,” said Ms Bartholomeusz.
cohealth’s wellbeing programs include the cohealth Kangaroos football and cricket team, gym programs and a psychosocial support service that aims to improve people’s social connectedness.
The Committee’s report also highlights the impact of the current below-poverty-level JobSeeker Payment on Victoria’s homelessness crisis.
“The Federal Government’s decision to deny Jobseekers access to an adequate income will mean that homelessness will only increase, and we’ll see more people suffering from the crushing health impacts of living without secure housing,” said Ms Bartholomeusz.
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cohealth is a Victorian not-for-profit community health organisation that strives to improve health and wellbeing for all. It provides universal access to services as well as targeted programs and assertive models to address the health disparities experienced by disadvantaged groups. cohealth offers a broad range of high quality, integrated health and support services, including medical oral, pharmacy, mental health and drug and alcohol services.