Housing vision for Valley’s vulnerable

The first sod is yet to be turned on a $1.2 million Traralgon housing project for people with a severe mental illness, but one advocacy group has already set plans in motion to duplicate the facility in every major Gippsland town.

Barrier Breakers is in the process of compiling a submission to the State Government’s next budget, seeking $10 million to build supported mental health accommodation similar to the development set to go ahead in Traralgon’s Hyde Park Road.

“We’re only scratching the surface with these Traralgon units and we believe the model we’ve built is the best of its kind in Victoria,” Barrier Breakers chief executive Derek Amos said.

“We know there’s a terrible need for such accommodation.”

Construction of the Traralgon units is due to commence in September, following a more than two-year push by mental health service providers which was plagued by bureaucratic delays to finalise a lease arrangement for the crown land. Mr Amos said he was “elated” the process had finally come to an end, with housing agency and project partner Eastcoast Housing due to be presented with lease documents this week.

The six units will provide a permanent home for people with severe and chronic mental illness.

Recovery organisation Mind Australia will provide a support worker to assist residents and run day activities, while Latrobe Regional Hospital’s community mental health service will provide clinical support.

The project aims to address a severe shortage of supported mental health housing in Gippsland.

According to Barrier Breakers about 4000 Gippslanders have a severe mental illness, but there are less than 100 fully supported accommodation units in the region.

“Some of them are living quite rough indeed, a lot are living in caravans or private accommodation as best they can and in other cases, hotels and boarding houses,” Mr Amos said.

Construction of the Traralgon units will be funded with $450,000 from the State Government, $600,000 from Eastcoast Housing and $150,000 from community donations.

The State Government has also allocated $348,000 for Mind Australia to run the day programs.