The deaths of three squatters in Footscray highlights the urgent need for more social housing in Melbourne’s west, according to advocates.
Last week’s alleged arson attack occurred across the road from one of the nine sites that community organisation Launch Housing has identified as potential locations for relocatable units to house some of the city’s growing homeless population.
While some residents have lodged objections to proposals for 57 units spread along Ballarat Road, citing concerns ranging from parking to fears of drug use and violence, others are speaking out in support of the project.
HousingAIM – Affordable, Inclusive Maribyrnong founder Kate Breen said housing options for people on diverse incomes were essential.
“We see this as an innovative use of what is otherwise vacant government land,” she said.
“If we can provide more affordable housing we can help people stabilise their lives and grow – it’s an important foundation.”
Ms Breen said high housing prices pushing people out of areas such as Footscray could leave them further disengaged from essential community and support services.
Ballarat Road resident James Scott said he supported Launch Housing’s project.
“Footscray has a homeless population living in dangerous conditions, yet we have this space right here that could be used to house them,” he said.
Footscray youth worker Les Twentyman said Victoria has a massive crisis with homelessness and politicians aren’t doing enough to solve the problem.
“There is nowhere to go. These are people who have been stuck in poverty… and sadly they shouldn’t be dying like this,” he said.
“They’re getting hunted out of the suburbs and that’s why you’ve got all that rough sleeping in your face in the city.”
The Homeless Persons Union Victoria said the fire tragedy highlighted the insecurity and dangers faced by people experiencing homelessness.
“This is the result of a society that cares more for private property and profit than it does for community and the fundamental human right to shelter.”