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Prison to homelessness

Prison to homelessness

By Divya Sharma

Practice & Procedure 


Soaring stamp duty revenue could be linked to social housing growth. It is disturbing to see that the number of prisoners released into homelessness in Victoria has more than doubled in the past five years, an increase from 17,930 prisoners in 2011-12 to 43,751 prisoners in 2016-17.1 In 2015, 35 per cent of people entering prison were reported homeless immediately before imprisonment and 40 per cent were reportedly released into homelessness.2 This data alludes to inadequate post-prison support, lack of affordable housing and rising rents. The social housing waiting lists have skyrocketed to more than 35,000 in Victoria.3 Less than 2 per cent of prisoners have access to transitional housing on release and one in five have any form of post release support. Therefore, a majority look for private housing in the current housing affordability crisis.4 Increased availability of stable, affordable and appropriate housing on release from prison could increase the chances of successful reintegration, avoiding reincarceration and addressing the homelessness issue simultaneously. The Victorian government’s investment of $2.1 billion to the social housing sector to help build affordable accommodation and $1 billion towards the Social Housing Growth Fund to build 2200 more homes over four years is applauded. However, there is still more to be done at the state, federal and community level. In light of the mid-year Victorian budget stamp duty revenue forecast of $6.57 billion over 2017-18 compared to $3.3 billion in 2011-12, there is a glaring need for the state government to consider using stamp duty revenue to build more social housing and guarantee the growth of social housing in the future by linking it to the rise in stamp duty revenue. Further, a complementary federal government action plan or an indication of any strategy or increased investment in affordable housing and response to homelessness can certainly help slow down, if not stop, this revolving door between prisons and homelessness. Meanwhile, the media should be conscious about not stigmatising homelessness when reporting it to prevent inadvertent adverse impact on government policy. Finally, a little empathy from people in general towards those affected will go a long way in restoring their trust in the community, help reintegration, prevent recidivism and hopefully break this insidious cycle of despair. Divya Sharma is a member of the YL Community Issues and Professional Development Committees. 1. Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and the Council of Homeless Persons (CHP). 2. AIHW report 2015. 3. CHP data. 4. Report by the Victorian Ombudsman.

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