Victorian Building Authority rules shut down churches winter night shelter for the homeless
Stable One is a volunteer organisation that runs a winter night shelter partnering with numerous churches to provide temporary refuge for those experiencing homelessness. In the Yarra Ranges, over 150 volunteers are registered to help at 8 participating churches from June to August providing nutritious meals, wash facilities and a bed, in a warm and safe environment.
However Stable One has been dealt a serious blow by mindless State Government bureaucracy. The Victorian Building Authority rules now require these churches to obtain building permits in order to continue delivering this valuable community service. This includes requiring each individual participating church to pay architects and draftspersons to draw up individual plans at huge cost, submit new policies and applications, and conduct extensive building upgrades.
On 21 August Stable One was issued a damning letter from the Yarra Ranges Council Building Surveyor stating that if they were using churches to provide homeless shelter without a building permit they were in direct contravention of the Building Act 1993. It sighted the VBA’s requirements and that Stable One would not be able to apply for a temporary occupancy permit, and that the operation was “illegal” and they were “required to cease the homeless accommodation use immediately to ensure no further action is taken”.
Bridget Vallence MP, State Member for Evelyn, in Parliament on 13 August called on the Housing Minister to urgently intervene and clarify how Section 64 of the Building Act is to be applied in relation to churches providing short term shelter for the homeless but is yet to receive a response.
Quotes attributable to Bridget Vallence MP, State Member for Evelyn
“The Labor Government is failing on the serious challenge of homelessness. Charitable organisations like Stable One partner with local churches to provide much needed refuge and temporary shelter to the most vulnerable in our community, and are being shut down because of the VBA’s bureaucracy. The Labor Government needs to take action now to allow churches to remain a place of temporary shelter for the homeless and enable these winter night shelters to continue”.