Tenant Advocacy Support is one of several services across Victoria that assists social and public housing tenants. In our case, we service the Loddon Campaspe region. Our service, like the others, falls under the State Government’s Social Housing Advocacy & Support Program (SHASP). Without services like ours, many public and social housing tenants are at risk of homelessness. However, SHASP services are now facing significant funding cuts recently announced by the state government.
SHASP services offer support and advocacy to vulnerable tenants facing difficulties in relation to their tenancies. The funding cuts will limit the ability of SHASP services to support people at a critical time in their lives. The funding cuts form part of the State Government’s plan to address Victoria’s public housing debt. Unfortunately, the cuts to Victoria’s most successful homelessness prevention initiative will put thousands of Victorians, including children, at risk of homelessness.
Each year the Social Housing Advocacy and Support Program (SHASP) works with around 6,000 Victorian households at risk of homelessness, helping them to establish and sustain their tenancies in public and community housing.
SHASP’s success has been well documented and is measured in tenancies saved, trauma averted and cost savings across government services. In the six years SHASP has been in operation, the eviction rate in Victorian public housing has more than halved, from 13% to 6%.
We work with people who are often not seeking assistance from anywhere else and offer support that directly aims at preventing people from becoming homeless. Providing support around housing issues also allows a range of other personal issues to be addressed and builds the capacity of people to maintain a home for themselves and their children.
It is particularly challenging for people in a rural area to get access to the support they need at the right time. Without the funding to address the issues of distance and isolation, tenants in Loddon Mallee region will be going without.
Tenant Advocacy Support joins the Wesley Mission Victoria, HomeGround, the Rural Housing Network and Bethany in opposing these cuts. The funding cuts will simply shift the burden from SHASP to other services (e.g. hospitals, health/mental health, child protection, family violence, disability and aged care) who will have to deal with increased numbers of people sleeping rough.
As Wesley Mission’s General Manager of Advocacy & Relationships noted in The Age on the 20th of July:
”It defies logic to cut this … people struggling to maintain their public housing tenancies will be made homeless because of a lack of support,” he said. ”You’re going to save [money] here but six months from now you’ll be overwhelmed because the homeless crisis section is already overwhelmed.