From left to right: HHS Board Director and CEO of Bendigo Community Health Services Gerard José and HHS Chair Sue Clarke with Maree Edwards MP. 

Haven; Home, Safe (HHS) will today officially launch its mobile street-based after-hours assertive outreach service for rough sleepers in Bendigo with the Member for Bendigo West, Maree Edwards.

The HeyVan is a safe space where rough sleepers can connect with our Homeless Assertive Outreach Response team. It will carry basic foods and essential items and stops at several locations across the City of Greater Bendigo. 

An initiative of the Victorian Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Plan, the HeyVan is one of eight new assertive outreach programs across the state to service areas identified as having the highest incidence of rough sleeping. HHS will launch a similar outreach service in Swan Hill next month.

The Bendigo and Swan Hill services have been funded for $1.28 million over two years and will have the capacity to provide assertive outreach to up to 120 people sleeping rough a year, including rapid access to emergency accommodation, health services, ongoing case management and housing support.

HHS Chair Sue Clarke said the agency was working closely with its key program partner, Bendigo Community Health Services to implement the outreach service in consultation with a steering committee comprising representatives from Bendigo Aboriginal District Cooperative, Victoria Police,City of Greater Bendigo, Centre for Non-Violence, Anglicare (Vic) and the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Those who sleep rough are among the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of our community,” Ms Clarke said, “and assertive outreach is the most effective way to find and engage with them.”

HHS Chief Operations Office Trudi Ray said rough sleeping could be experienced by anyone, single adult men and women, and families with dependent children – with some groups more vulnerable such as Aboriginal Victorians, young people, older people and LGBTIQA+ people.

Recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed a 14% increase in the number of people who were homeless over the past years and that 1 in 10 homeless were sleeping rough. 

 “For every 10,000 people, 50 are homeless, and more than 43,500 homeless people are under 25,” Ms Ray said.

“Rough sleeping is not just those sleeping on the city streets, but in overcrowded, unsuitable, and  inappropriate accommodation such as parks, cars, bushland, river beds.”

Escalating issues have driven the increase in rough sleeping, including increasing housing costs, lack of affordable housing, the inadequacy of Centrelink income support, and family violence.

“Rough sleeping exposes people to a range of harms including violence and extreme weather conditions with lasting impacts on both their physical and mental health and their capacity for social and economic participation,” Ms Ray said.

“Although many people sleep rough for only a short time, the longer a person remains without shelter, the more serious the effects on their health and wellbeing will be, and the more difficult it is to resolve their homelessness,” she said.

The HeyVan service will start on March 4 and operate Monday to Friday from 5 pm to 9 pm. The initial route will include stops at:

  • Hargreaves Street – Bendigo Community Health – Fork in the Road
  • Huntly Reserve
  • Eaglehawk – Neangar Lake
  • Kangaroo Flat – Rotary Park
  • Bendigo Central – Garsed Street
  • Bendigo Central – Train Station
  • Bendigo Central – Lyttleton Terrace
  • Bendigo Central – Barnard Street, near the QEO
  • Bendigo Central – Pall Mall – Rosalind Park

As the service progresses, the route and timing may be altered.  Changes will be publicised on the HHS website and the HHS Facebook Page.

The HeyVan team will provide:

  • Early intervention to prevent homelessness
  • Access to emergency accommodation
  • Access to specialist services such as mental health, drug and alcohol support, allied health and more.
  • Case management to address and support the complex needs of people experiencing homelessness and sleeping rough
  • Early intervention strategies, aiming to reduce the psychosocial impact of rough sleeping
  • Ongoing support for people to be relocated off the street and into safe and permanent housing
  • Innovative responses and support to people who may not engage with traditional services