Burnet Institute welcomes the announcement by the Victorian Government of a further AUD $150 million to support Victorians in unstable housing through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The announcement means the government will continue to provide hotel accommodation for 2000 Victorians until at least April 2021.
The new funding package will also see the government lease 1100 properties from the private rental market to ensure ongoing accommodation once the hotel arrangement ends.
It builds upon nearly $25 million the Victorian Government has spent on emergency housing, isolation and coronavirus recovery facilities for people experiencing homelessness since the pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization on March 11.
Professor Paul Dietze, Burnet Institute Program Director, Behaviours and Health Risks, said the funding was a “really positive step”.
“The whole response has shown that we can address homelessness. That’s been a major consideration for a lot of the population of people that we [Burnet] work with,” he said.
Professor Dietze said the new funding will help to prevent the outbreak of COVID-19 among vulnerable Victorians, and that it will also help to fight several other health conditions.
“The key thing is that there’s a range of health-related conditions that people who are homeless are more likely to suffer from, including mental health problems, but also a range of respiratory issues and those sorts of things, and that puts them at an increased risk of COVID-related problems.”
The new government support will also allow a number of Burnet initiatives and projects to assess the impact of housing status on health outcomes.
“A lot of our projects highlight the problems that go with housing instability and homelessness. This is a welcome change that will allow us to evaluate the impact of these sorts of things, and whether or not changing people’s housing status can actually improve a range of health outcomes,” Professor Dietze said.
Burnet is a collaborator with the Department of Health, the Salvation Army’s Access Health, and St Vincent’s Hospital in a service to provide free hepatitis A vaccinations for homeless populations throughout Melbourne.
That initiative, and others like it, will be made easier because of the announcement.
“It also provides a platform for us to more easily access people to do some of the new vaccination and treatment and other health care that we’re involved in supporting,” Professor Dietze said.
“It just basically provides additional support for that work that’s going on at the moment which the government is also funding, so you know they’re not just providing housing but they are providing a whole of range of health and other services to people whose housing is unstable,” he said.