Public Housing Wait List Is 82,500 And Growing By 500 Each Month
When he was homeless, Shane felt so isolated from society he was more comfortable talking to dogs than their human owners.
"I stopped talking to humans in general," he told 10 daily.
"I fell out of society generally. I’d talk to people’s dogs, but not acknowledge them."
Shane lived rough on the streets of Melbourne for around three years, after being evicted from a supported accommodation facility in 2015. He put that down to mental health -- " I ended up blowing up in my bipolar ways, I did a few things," he admitted -- and spent time shuttling between friends' couches, crisis accommodation, and sleeping rough.
It took him three years to be approved for a public housing property of his own, despite being placed on a priority list. Shane is now in a studio apartment in Melbourne's north, "slowly reintegrating into society", and getting his confidence back.
But he said even just getting a place was a long process, and it only happened because he lobbied his local politicians for assistance and they wrote recommendations to state housing services calling for Shane to get help.
"I said 'if you don't write a letter, I’ll sleep on your doorstep for the rest of my life'," Shane joked to 10 daily.
Federal Greens MP Adam Bandt was one of those who stepped in on Shane's behalf.
The federal Member for Melbourne wants Victoria's state Labor government to urgently commit to constructing new public housing stock, to cut down the waiting list for those desperate to get a home.
"When the amount of people who need public housing is surging, doing nothing will strand thousands of vulnerable Victorians who want nothing more than a safe place to live," Bandt told 10 daily.
The MP said his office had been collating housing complaints from Melbourne residents for three years. Of the 260 complaints received, the average time spent on a public housing wait list was 718 days from the time they approached Bandt's office.
Around 40 percent of people who approached Bandt's office had children under five years of age, and 17 percent became homeless as a result of family violence.
Victoria's Department of Health and Human Services told 10 daily that as of December 2018, there were 47,056 applications on its waiting list, and that the department managed more than 64,000 public rental units statewide.
A June 2018 report from the parliament's Legal and Social Issues Committee reported there were 82,500 people on the state's public housing list, which was growing by 500 names each month.
The department told 10 daily it was "difficult to estimate" how long someone would have to wait on a list before being getting a public property.
The June parliamentary report noted more than 60 percent of Victoria's public housing was more than 30 years old, with around 20 percent of stock more than 50 years old.
Rather than just upgrading current housing, Bandt called on the state government to spend some of its recent budget surplus -- $1.4 billion, as announced at the April 2018 state budget -- by committing to a "large-scale build" of new housing.
While Victoria went to an election last year, with the Andrews Labor government returned to office with a thumping majority and an increased margin, Bandt and his federal colleagues will go to the polls sometime in 2019 -- most likely May.
Labor is expected to pinch many seats off the Coalition, including several in Victoria. At the same time, the Greens will hope another member or two will join Bandt in the House of Representatives, as the party mounts an assault on several inner-city Melbourne seats.
The Greens hope to woo voters, especially younger people, with a more progressive policy platform than Labor -- including policies on home ownership, rental affordability, and more support for emergency and public housing.
“I urge the re-elected Labor government to work with the Greens to build new public housing dwellings, maintain and upgrade existing public housing stock and to ditch their plan to sell off public housing land," Bandt said.
Shane said he hoped to see more public housing in Victoria, saying the long waiting lists see the homeless resign themselves to a life sleeping rough.
"After a while on the street, you become accustomed to it, and getting a house is so overwhelming. People are left on the street to rot," he said.
"If I didn't get those letters written from politicians, I'd still be in the gutter. You need to do a lot of legwork yourself, and some people just slip through the cracks."