Adjournment: Public housing community connectors program
My adjournment is to the Minister for Housing and relates to the recently announced $8.5 million in funding for the new public housing community connectors program. I understand that the program aims to build on the high-risk accommodation response (HRAR) funding, which ended in June, and will have a strong health focus. The funding is a welcome relief for residents living in high-rise public housing in my electorate, which has a large concentration of high-density public housing in North Melbourne, Carlton, Fitzroy, Collingwood and North Richmond. Residents were understandably very anxious when it was announced that HRAR funding would end, and many residents who had been employed as community concierges were told they would lose their jobs. At the time my colleague Ellen Sandell, the state member for Melbourne, advocated on behalf of residents who were feeling abandoned and called on the government to extend funding to ensure that residents would continue to be supported. When public housing towers were locked down during the height of the pandemic it was informal community networks and groups, organisation leaders, neighbours and friends who coordinated medicine, food and other necessities and made sure that residents had the support and information that they needed.
It is great to see the government recognising the importance of community-led initiatives; however, there has been a mixed response from local residents and organisations about this new funding, and many people say they do not fully understand how the program will work. In my electorate over 100 local public housing residents were employed through the HRAR program by Cohealth, and many who lost their jobs when the program ended are still unsure if they will be employed again. Residents are unsure if the program staff will be based at the estates and are wondering when they will be able to access support. Since the HRAR funding ended and health concierges left the estates my office has heard from residents that they are having difficulty accessing important health services and that many families who need emergency food and material aid do not know where to go. Increased cost of living expenses are adding additional pressures, and many residents are really struggling. During a recent conversation one resident commented that the community has no idea what is going on and just needs support. The action I seek is for the minister to direct the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing to provide on-site briefings to public housing residents on the program.