Mark Lang is an example of how homelessness can affect anyone. He suffered an undiagnosed mental illness for some 25 years and, with limited resources or support, found himself living out of his car.
“I went from living a quiet suburban life and having every material comfort, to being on the threshold of criminality,” the Melbourne man said.
The organisation that helped Mr Lang find stable housing now wants the parties contesting the Victorian election to commit to increasing the supply of low cost, subsidised housing.
A coalition of Victorian housing and welfare bodies want the state government to commit $200 million towards increasing public and community housing each year for the next 20 years, Yarra Community Housing CEO Rob Leslie said.
He said Victoria has the lowest proportion of public and community housing in Australia.
“There is also a growing number of low amenity, unsafe, exploitative rooming houses sprouting up in our suburbs,” Mr Leslie said on Tuesday.
“It is a far better use of taxpayers’ money to increase social housing than to fund expensive services to bring people out of homelessness.”
An estimated 22,000 Victorians are homeless on any given night, half of whom are aged under 25.
Requests for emergency housing assistance have increased by about 23 per cent since last year, Yarra Community Housing says.
Mr Lang said he felt he had no choice but to move into his car. He had exhausted all of his options for emergency accommodation as his circumstances had not been considered “bad enough yet”.
He has now been in stable housing for more than two years, is studying, has a mental health plan and a stable routine for nutrition and exercise.
“Stable housing was without a question the key to turning my life around.”