It's winter, the weather is shitty and conspicuous homelessness in Melbourne's CBD is skyrocketing. According to an Age report, the number of people sleeping rough has jumped 74 per cent in the last two years (from 142 to 247 people). What has now been described as a crisis level of homelessness in the CBD is being attributed to cuts to social housing, emergency housing being at capacity, and the factors that frequently drive homelessness, such as mental illness, drug addiction, alcoholism and domestic violence.
Happily, there may be some hope in sight following housing minister Martin Foley's announcement this week that $850,000 will be made available to assist the emergency housing crisis. The proposed breakdown of the funds will see $500K going to the Housing Establishment Fund, which will fund emergency accomodation, just shy of $300K to North Melbourne's crises accomodation centre Bailly House, which will allow for the provision of 38 extra crises accomodation beds, and $50K going to the Salvos for the provision of more case workers.
The Victorian government is also considering property developer Rob Pradolin's proposal to convert disused Melbourne office space to short-term accomodation for the homeless.
No timetable has been set out yet for the roll out of the proposed relief and it's unclear whether the office space conversion idea will get a green light. However, while waiting for some concrete government action, there are a few ways you can help out, including the following:
1. Pick up a piece of art at the inaugural Wintringham art show (Fri Jul 22-Thu Aug 4). Wintringham is the not-for-profit supporting elderly homeless people.
2. Volunteer some time down at St Kilda's Sacred Heart Mission, which supplies 500 breakfasts and lunches every day to local people in need.
3. Dedicate some time to the Melbourne City Mission, which is the largest provider of social services to homeless youth in Victoria. Amongst other things, you can sign up to help out with tutoring at-risk youth.
4. If nothing else, don't be an arsehole the next time someone asks you for some spare coin – even if you don't cough up, exercise some compassion.
As we learned during our interview with Buddhist monk Gen Kelsang Dornying, the resident teacher at Melbourne's Kadampa Buddhist Centre, the quickest way to feeling good about yourself is not by buying into the whole self-love philosophy, it's by helping others. So, if you're now feeling fired up – check out our list of some other fabulous services that will happily accept your help as a volunteer.