Explainer: What is rough sleeping?

When most people think of homelessness, they tend to think of someone sleeping rough on the streets. In fact sleeping rough is only one type of homelessness and at the Census in 2011 only about 6% of people who were experiencing homelessness were rough sleeping (the Census is being conducted again in August 2016 so we will know in 2017 what the 2016 figures show).

Sleeping rough can refer to anyone who is living on the streets, sleeping in parks, or squatting in derelict buildings for temporary shelter.

People sleeping rough are some of the most vulnerable in society. It can be dangerous and is often traumatizing. Many people who sleep rough will suffer from multiple health conditions, such as mental health problems and drug misuse.

Not all rough sleepers are aware that advice and support is available to them.

How many people are there sleeping rough in Melbourne?
The data shows an increase in the number of people rough sleeping in Melbourne. Each year the City of Melbourne’s StreetCount collects information about people sleeping rough in the CBD. StreetCount 2016 took place in the early hours of Tuesday June 7 and continued at homelessness services throughout the day. A total of 247 people were counted sleeping rough. This represents an increase of 74 percent from the 2014 total of 142 people. To find out more about StreetCount, visit the City of Melbourne’s website.

How do we help people who are sleeping rough?
Launch housing has two great programs working with people who are sleeping rough. The Melbourne Street to Home program provides coordinated housing, support services and health intervention targeted at Melbourne’s most vulnerable rough sleepers.

The Rough Sleepers Initiative  works with people who are sleeping rough within the council areas of Melbourne, Stonnington, Port Phillip and Yarra. The program aims to ensure a responsive, immediate service connecting rough sleepers to accommodation (crisis and long-term) and health services, as well as reconnecting them to pre-existing support or establishing new supports.

As a long term solution, Common Ground provides permanent, affordable, high-quality housing to people with complex needs who have been chronically homeless, many for more than 10 years. It is a supportive housing project with on-site support services to help people settle into and maintain their housing.