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Homelessness a growing problem By Laura Michell Homelessness is on the rise in Whittlesea and Hume, with more than 1500 people reporting being homeless in the 2016 Census. New Census data released earlier this month revealed there are 630 people living in Whittlesea who are homeless, up from 455 people at the previous Census in 2011. In Hume, 916 reported being homeless, up from 861 in 2011. The data also shows that more than a third of homeless people in Whittlesea are living in

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severely crowded accommodation. About 100 people are living in temporary accommodation, 19 live in boarding houses and 232 live in supported accommodation. Hope Street Youth and Family Services chief executive Donna Bennett said young people were most at risk of homelessness in the northern growth corridor. Ms Bennett said she feared the data was not completely accurate. “It is very hard to capture a lot of data on young people who are homeless because they tend to couch surf or sleep in cars or parks,” she said.

Young people tend to couch surf or sleep in cars - Donna Bennett or parks

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“They don’t tend to present to mainstream services and agencies. I would say the numbers are far higher.” Ms Bennett said homelessness had become a growing concern as people struggle with the cost of living, jobs losses and family violence. She said the area did not have enough

affordable private rental properties and social housing. There are just 10 transitional accommodation beds in Whittlesea, which Ms Bennett said was “absolutely inadequate”. Hope Street has been working with Whittlesea council to address the problem by developing a proposal for supported accommodation in the municipality. It is also running a pilot program which works with real estate agents to improve access to private rental properties for young people and young families.

Council votes for eligibility Hume council wants a “discriminatory” clause preventing ministerial and electorate officers from standing for council to be left out of the new Local Government Bill. In its submission to the state government’s Local Government Bill exposure draft, the council said it did not support the proposal to continue preventing ministerial and electorate officers and parliamentary advisors from being councillors. The restriction divided councillors, with Jack Medcraft, Jodi Jackson, Leigh Johnson and Naim Kurt wanting the restriction to remain. But Cr Drew Jessop said it was discriminatory because it excluded a certain class of employment from being councillors. “Any citizen and resident should be able to nominate for council unless there is a very, very good reason they should not,” he said. Cr Jackson said the clause had been introduced to make councils more transparent. She warned that removing it would impact on residents’ ability to trust councils. Cr Jackson asked her fellow councillors to also consider restricting real estate agents and property developers from standing for council, but the proposal failed to gain support. In December, the state government released the exposure draft of the Local Government Bill 2018, following the 2015 review of the Local Government Act 1989, which the bill is slated to replace. If passed by Parliament, the bill will come into operation over four stages.

Pets win a lifetime of registration Hume pet owners will no longer need to change their animal’s registration tag each year, with the council switching to lifetime tags. Pet owners will begin receiving registration renewal notices in April with their pet’s new lifetime tag attached. Mayor Geoff Porter said the move to lifetime tags meant there would be a delay in residents receiving their renewal notices this year. “We expect to send them out in April with an amended due date. Until then, all animals registered from April 2017 will remain registered until further notice,” he said. “Residents will no longer receive a new registration tag each year with their renewal notice; they will just need to pay the annual fee by the due date to renew their pet’s registration.” Cr Porter said it was important residents checked their details were correct on the registration renewal notice when it arrives. He said pet registrations were the best way to ensure lost pets were returned to their owner. “Cats and dogs that are registered and microchipped are more likely to be reunited with their owner if they become lost or go missing,” he said. By law, all cats and dogs aged three months and older must be registered with the council. Laura Michell 4 DAY SALE ONLY

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Laura Michell

Shelter manager Caitlin Corrigan with Alice, a Maltese cross. (Joe Mastroianni)

3 NORTHERN STAR WEEKLY \ MARCH 27, 2018

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