Stepping up for homelessness

Pay it Forward this Homelessness Week by purchasing a coffee or a meal at Belle’s Cafe, Thyme for Coffee, Lake Café and Deck and Yarrawonga Bakery to assist those at risk of homelessness.

Local businesses including Belle’s Café, Thyme for Coffee, Lake Café and Deck and Yarrawonga Bakery are taking part in the Oven Murray and Goulburn Homelessness Network Pay It Forward initiative, assisting those who are at risk of homelessness or are living rough.

Thousands of people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness have sought assistance for themselves and their families so far this year from support agencies across the Ovens Murray and Goulburn regions.

That’s why to mark Homelessness Week, August 1-7, the region’s homelessness agencies as part of the Oven Murray and Goulburn Homelessness Network will launch its Pay It Forward initiative, with the idea to share good fortune by doing something kind for someone else.

The pay it forward initiative means community members can purchase a coffee or a meal that will be redeemable by a person in need at one of the 34 participating cafes.

The idea was being kick-started for homelessness week.

The network’s Janine Bussell said the community often expressed that it wanted to help but did not know how.

“Many in the community want to help people experiencing homelessness, but don’t know how to reach out. People experiencing homelessness can feel embarrassed and ashamed to ask for food or basic services,” Ms Bussell said.

“The focus of this year’s Homelessness Week in our region is ‘Stepping Up to End Homelessness’, recognising that everyone has a role to play.

“The pay it forward initiative gives a structured means to helping people living without safe, secure housing while raising awareness and making an impact for people right now.

"The biggest thing is community awareness. A lot of people are doing it tough so if the community show they are willing to help, people experiencing homelessness will feel valued.”

According to the 2016 Census, 116,000 Australians identified as being homeless. More than 6,360 individuals and families accessed Specialist Homelessness Services in the Ovens Murray Goulburn region in the 2021-22 financial year.

Poverty, a lack of affordable housing and family violence are the main factors causing homelessness, but other contributing factors include unemployment, mental illness, psychological distress, disability, exiting out-of-home care and prison.

Ms Bussell said homelessness is a growing crisis in our community.

“The housing affordability crisis has created a dire shortage of affordable options for people on very low incomes. There are families, couples, and single people right across the Ovens Murray and Goulburn region who are doing it tough and are at risk of homelessness,” she said.

“Homelessness Week is an opportunity for us to shine a light on the issue and spark important discussions about the issues that are driving homelessness in our part of regional Victoria.”

Ms Bussell said homelessness can happen to anyone of any age and the single biggest cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing.

“Sufficient supply of affordable housing both in the private rental market and social housing is key. We know the provision of long-term safe, secure, affordable housing is critical to ending homelessness,” Ms Bussell said.

‘‘What it costs to keep someone housed is significantly lower than what it costs to support someone who is rough sleeping or staying in emergency accommodation.”

Ways you can step up and join the fight against homelessness:

1.Join the Stepping Up for Homelessness Event and grab a tea, coffee or hot meal for yourself and pay it forward for clients of homelessness services in the region, during Homelessness Week. Visit for a list of participating cafes and restaurants in your area.

2.Find out more about homelessness and the Stepping Up for Homelessness at