Homelessness in cities starts in regional areas: Salvation Army Major

LET'S ACT: Salvation Army Major Brendan Nottle, walking from Melbourne to Canberra, says a national plan is needed to address homelessness. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE
LET'S ACT: Salvation Army Major Brendan Nottle, walking from Melbourne to Canberra, says a national plan is needed to address homelessness. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

The roots of homelessness in cities stem from regional areas, Salvation Army Major Brendan Nottle believes.

Stopping in Beechworth on Sunday on his Melbourne to Canberra Walk the Walk for the Homeless, Major Nottle met with local branch members to speak about issues faced by people locally.

“The number of people sleeping rough in Melbourne jumped 74 per cent between 2014 and 2016,” he said.

“The other driver for the walk was that we went through a federal election last year and it was not talked about.

“It was out of a sense of real frustration we thought we’d have to do something a little out of the box to grab the attention of our political leaders.

“When we get to Canberra, we want to have conversations with politicians about the desperate need for a national bipartisan plan.”

Major Nottle said that plan needed to look seriously at support services available in regional areas.

“When you have conversations with people, you start to realise pretty quickly their homelessness very rarely starts in the city.”

“It often starts many years earlier and in suburbs of regional and rural areas.

“If we’re going to turn off the tap of homelessness in the cities, we have to look at what we’re doing there.”

John Weldon, who was living in his car at Yackandandah at one point, said what’s more concerning is the issue is hidden in regional areas.

“I was fortunate enough to meet a lady who worked with rural housing and she took me under her wing, and now I have my life back,” he said.

“Homeless people are isolated – where are they?

“You don’t see them, and I wouldn’t know where they go.”

Beechworth Salvation Army welfare manager Jim Kenney said some were living in tents and caravans.

“I’ve been doing this for eight years and certainly there’s been more homelessness the last few years – maybe because they are more aware of us,” he said.

“Temporary housing is the big problem – we need more.”

Mr Kenney receives requests for accommodation help about twice a month, but this often spikes, particularly in summer as homeless people return to the region when it’s warmer.

“One man, who moved away, actually committed arson so he would go to prison and get shelter,” he said.

“Many of these people are in desperate situations and we’ll help where we can.”