Ballarat homeless couple's death was preventable

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Two young people who died in their car on July 25 after using a gas heater to keep warm had been homeless for some time.

Dr Bruce Redman from the Salvation Army told the Ballarat Courier after the discovery of their bodies: “The Salvos are finding more and more people who are resorting to live in their cars because of a lack of affordable accommodation options.

“When it's summer, people tend to sleep on the beach or in their cars and no one really notices. But when it's cold, most people expect to have a roof over their heads, somewhere where they can stay warm.”

Ballarat becomes extremely cold during winter, experiencing freezing conditions and snowfalls.

A report in 2009 found there were almost 400 homeless people in the regional Victorian town. The ABC said at the time: “RMIT Associate Professor Chris Chamberlain says while most of the 400 homeless are living in emergency accommodation, 25 are sleeping in the streets or in tents, cars or sheds.”

Ballarat Uniting Care manager Wendy Ferguson told the ABC on July 28 that "young people on Newstart allowance are the most vulnerable to homelessness. Certainly we can do with more public housing".

Green Left Weekly spoke to Ballarat community activist Koby Bunney. When asked about services for the homeless, Bunney said: "There is pretty much nothing, to be honest I'm still technically regarded as homeless since I had to move from my house.

“They have a service at Uniting Care but they pretty much give you a blanket and a list of caravan park numbers and that's it.

“And then you have [Victorian not-for-profit service] Berry Street, [where] everyone just tells you about waiting times and you never get anywhere ...

“I would like to see a drop in center where people can count on a warm building to rest in, especially in Ballarat’s cold weather ...

“We need to talk about how to keep each other warm and safe.”

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From GLW issue 1020