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Why can’t Melbourne be the city that ends street homelessness?

Bevan Warner, CEO, Launch Housing.

This might sound unachievable, like something that’s in the too-hard basket. But that’s only because we’ve accepted the inevitability of it.

Solutions exist but they require us to challenge the passive acceptance that rough sleeping is a part of every big city. Experience shows us that increased availability of social and affordable housing, coordinated local services staying in touch with people living on the streets, and appropriate levels of health care and wraparound services can prevent the cycle of people on and off the streets – permanently.

Today, like minded business and brands are spearheading a new campaign to enlist Melbourne’s households to make a collective and lasting impact on change. Melbourne Zero recognises that our leaders already know how to end rough sleeping. What’s missing is a mandate from the community that will green light government action.

When enough people say they don’t accept rough sleeping as a normal part of a city, then we demonstrate that ending street homelessness is a shared aspiration for a progressive and proud city. By facilitating a wave of people who want Melbourne to be better we will create the social licence that enables governments to do the sustained work required to end street homelessness.

As housing affordability and the rental housing crisis deepens, tackling street homelessness becomes even more urgent. When we see the almost daily media reports of the growing scale of the housing crisis, ending rough sleeping can seem like an intractable challenge. But the worsening conditions in the rental market will continue to push more people into homelessness, and increasingly this will include people in employment. Inevitably, more people will experience street homelessness, without community action now.

We can’t solve any part of the housing crisis without more housing but that can’t be our only focus. Achieving zero homelessness means helping people into safe and secure housing at a faster rate than people entering homelessness.

We should all want to end street homelessness for many reasons but first and foremost, because it is a health emergency. People who sleep rough are likely to die 30 years before people with stable housing, largely due to their exposure to preventable illness.

We should all feel concerned about stepping around rough sleepers because we know that our city can set up responses to actually end it if we chose to.

Melbourne is a kind city. If enough of us say we want to be a better city, there is no reason why can't Melbourne be the world leading city in ending street homelessness.

Who are we if we can’t aspire to this?

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From business leaders to your next-door neighbours, we're calling on every Melburnian to join the Melbourne Zero movement and help end homelessness in our city.