Connecting people and communities
Thursday, 11 May, 2017 Page 9
Push to solve Casey's homelessness ‘crisis’
Call goes out to back health hub
By Cam Lucadou-Wells
By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Roger Hall and Kerri Bolch still waiting at the vacant site for the mental health wellbeing centre. 167988 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS dent Roger Hall said he was disappointed the proposal - with “broad acceptance from both sides of politics, both State and Federal” - didn’t win funding. “The centre would be an extremely valuable asset for the school in dealing with the welfare problems we encounter among our 1600-plus students at our school.” Mr Hall said the college’s five welfare staff and nurse worked in “acutely cramped” spaces to fulfil a “not unreasonable expectation” that the school cared for the “whole” student. He said the cost wasn’t excessive compared to the community benefits. “I am a very firm believer in the concept that it is better to have ‘a fence at the top of
the cliff than an ambulance at the bottom’.” Principal Kerri Bolch said she was passionate about creating a centre to educate students and the community on the factors leading to mental health issues, and were keen to explore ways to fund it. Ms Bolch said the school had an understanding the proposal was being considered in the state budget. She said mental health issues were prevalent among young people. “We have the support of many community groups and hope to work together to make a difference now and in the future.” Star News is awaiting a response from the State Government.
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Gembrook MP Brad Battin has called on the State Government to reverse its state-budget snub of a $1 million plan for a mental health and wellbeing hub at Berwick College. Mr Battin said the government was “making all the right noises” about mental health among young people in Casey-Cardinia but had not funded the school’s vision. The proposed Wellbeing Centre, which would be available for broader community use, would have rooms for a GP, counsellors, a sick bay and a room for educational sessions. Talks on domestic violence and other factors for mental health could be delivered during and after school hours. The idea comes after the Casey region had been rocked by a “cluster” of 12 young deaths by suicide in 2011/12, which led to a State Coroner’s report on the phenomenon’s “elevated frequency”. “Our community has suffered enough with the pain of young people taking their lives,” Mr Battin said. “We are reminded daily of the tragic events on social media, memorial sites and kids still talk about the pain they felt. “You would struggle to find a person who has not been touched by suicide, and many of those who take their life are only at the beginning of life themselves.” Mr Battin said Berwick College principal Kerri Bolch and teachers showed leadership by coming up with a Wellbeing Centre in 2014 to help students at greatest risk. “When we are talking about young people’s lives we must note we only need $1 million. If it saves one life, it is worth it.” Berwick College school council presi-
Casey councillor Milla Gilic has called for a “crisis meeting” between the council and community organisations to solve the municipality’s emergency-housing shortage. At a council meeting on 2 May, Cr Gilic shared harrowing stories of vulnerable families sheltering in cars for a range of reasons including domestic violence and poverty. She told of a mother and her VCE-student son living in a car for several months. A local homelessness service had only been able to provide them shelter in a motel for a few days, Cr Gilic said. In another case, a mother with stage-four cancer and her 30-year-old autistic son were also without a home. They were not sure how long they could stay in emergency accommodation. Cr Gilic said there were groups, including national organisations, willing to back a solution with “significant monetary support” - providing that the need was proven. She said the solution may not involve a further financial commitment from Casey Council. Councillors unanimously backed Cr Gilic’s motion for the meeting between councillors, council officers and possible donors, and for a council report on how Casey Council could assist. Cr Geoff Ablett said Cr Gilic had garnered significant
financial pledges to solving a problem that entrapped “thousands” in Casey. The latest social housing waiting list for the southern metropolitan region, including Casey and Greater Dandenong, is more than 4000 - including 701 waiting for priority-access. WAYSS homelessness services manager Jen Kelly said families living in cars was the “real” picture of homelessness - rather than people sleeping in Swanston Street. “It’s really tough out there. There’s a shortage of available properties and we try not to send people away. “We need governments to stop their politicising these poor people who are homeless.” On latest figures, there were 21 known individuals “sleeping rough” in cars, crisis accommodation, tents or parks in Cranbourne, Lynbrook and Hampton Park, Ms Kelly said. Recently, WAYSS was able to help 39 families or individuals with $54,000 of private rental access funding since March, and was looking forward to more of the funds as part of a State Government initiative. It helps families who are moved on by private landlords get a bond and a first month’s rent for a new tenancy. Part of the problem was a lack of affordable rentals. It was common for people to apply for up to 40 rental properties, Ms Kelly said.
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Published on May 10, 2017