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The City of Melbourne contracted Cedar Creek Consulting to research the housing history, needs and aspirations of people who live in registered Rooming Houses in the municipality. Working in partnership with MindHealth Australia, the Council to Homeless Person's Peer Education Support Program, David Eldridge and Mackenzie and Chamberlain, we constructed stratified sample of rooming house beds and, over October and December 2011 interviewed ninety eight residents and eleven local service providers. What we found has provided a new view of vulnerability and change in thsi important population group, while confirming previous research.
There is considerable research that highlights the complex and entrenched needs of people living in Boarding and Rooming houses in Melbourne and elsewhere (eg Horton, 1990; Anderson Hume, Rogers and Stephenson, 2003; Kliger, 2003; Chamberlain and Mackenzie 2006, 2008; Baptist Community Services, 2011). These studies show that many people who live in Boarding and Rooming Houses are male, single, unemployed and often are of poor physical health. Many experience high psychological stress and have few meaningful opportunities to develop social networks.
Half of all those we interviewed had either been homeless or were vulnerable to homelessness. As the sample is representative of the City of Melbourne rooming house population, it can be considered that about half the city’s rooming house population falls into the category of being at risk and long term homeless. Based on data provided by the City of Melbourne, around 300 rooming house residents could be at risk of or have experienced long term homeless. About a third had slept rough or had used homelessness shelters and night shelters a further third were International Students.
Cedar Creek recommended a number of actions that could improve the lives of people living in rooming houses, including: