Help and better health at hand for Melbourne's homeless

A COMMUNITY health service is reaching out to Melbourne's vulnerable citizens to try to reduce homelessness.

The rate of homelessness in Australia has risen 8 per cent, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates following the 2011 Census. There were 105,237 people in Australia classified as homeless on the Census night last year, up from 89,728 in 2006.

Non-profit service provider Inner South Community Health Service aims to make a significant impact on homelessness in Melbourne's inner south through its Community Connections Program, which supports up to 130 homeless people in the area throughout the year by connecting them with housing and other services.

The organisation, which is based in St Kilda, South Melbourne and Prahran, found 74 per cent of people it had helped lived in Port Phillip. One-third were "sleeping rough" and one-third were living in boarding houses or rooming houses.

CEO of the community health service, Damian Ferrie, said his team actively sought out vulnerable people in parks, squats and rooming houses and developed a trusting relationship with them.

"They then work together to link people into housing, health care and other necessary services," Mr Ferrie said.

LISA HIGGINSON

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