“Ben” had lived in housing commission with his mother for 18 years. When she passed away in 2005 he was evicted for rental arrears. At the age of 29 he became homeless, moving between temporary but unaffordable short term accommodation while dealing with his mother’s loss. He became depressed (which was undiagnosed) and struggled in his work as a tradesman. For about 4 years he lived on and off with his partner until moving in permanently with her in mid-2009. Then in mid-2010 his partner died suddenly.
Although sharing his partner’s house for a year, Ben was not listed with her as a resident. The Housing Office told him he would have to move out and join the waiting list (approximately 40,000 people). Ben’s application to transfer the tenancy from his partner to him was rejected.
At this stage the Homeless Person’s Legal Clinic became involved. It used the Charter to negotiate a better outcome for Ben by having the Housing Office officials give consideration to his personal circumstances (including by that stage a brief period of hospitalisation for his depression). Section 38(1) of Victoria’s Charter states that,
it is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way that is incompatible with a human right or, in making a decision, to fail to give proper consideration to a relevant human right.
A common sense solution was found when the Housing Office offered Ben a vacant one bedroom unit (his deceased partner’s house was 3 bedrooms). Ben willingly accepted, saying, “I’m not greedy, I just don’t want to be on the streets.” The result avoided the courts and didn’t add Ben to end of an extremely long housing list. Crucially, the action may well have steered Ben’s life away from a downward path (with society having to deal with the fallout).
“Ben” is a name used to protect the privacy of the real person involved.
(source: Homeless Persons Legal Clinic, a resource provider for homeless people run by the Public Interest Law Clearing House, or PILCH)