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Question Time: Homelessness

Listen to Question Time: Homelessness

In June last year, the biennial Street Count of rough-sleepers confirmed what was obvious to many who live or work in the Melbourne CBD – the number of homeless people has risen astronomically. Official Street Count figures showed an unprecedented increase of 74 per cent since the previous tally.

This figure accounts for the most visible kind of homeless person. More difficult to quantify are the ‘hidden homeless’. The people who couch-surf, live in cars or stay in dangerous or improvised forms of temporary accommodation – largely out of sight and out of mind.

How do we apply targeted solutions for homeless people with different needs? What is the relationship between homelessness and gentrification? How does media coverage stigmatise and entrench homelessness? What is the ‘Housing First’ theory and how does it work? In a full hour of audience Q&A, we’ll delve into some complex problems that demand urgent solutions.

Host Madeleine Morris is joined by homelessness advocates, policy makers and service providers including Jenny Smith (formerly of Council to Homeless Persons), Michael Perusco (Yarra Community Housing) and Lucy Adams (Justice Connect Homeless Law), as well as former homeless person, Erika (currently a volunteer with Vincentcare and Council to Homeless Persons).

Photo of the panellists


Portrait of Michael Perusco

Michael Perusco

Michael Perusco was appointed Chief Executive of Yarra Community Housing (YCH) in October 2015. YCH recently merged with Urban Communities Limited and is Victoria’s largest provider of community housing. YCH has a particular focus on housing people with a history of homelessness and disadvantage.

Portrait of Madeleine Morris

Madeleine Morris

Madeleine Morris is a Melbourne-based reporter for ABC television’s 7.30. She was formerly a presenter for the BBC in London and reported from dozens of countries before returning to her native Australia. She is the author of Guilt-Free Bottle-Feeding: Why Your Formula-Fed Baby Can Grow Up To Be Happy, Healthy and Smart, published by Finch. 

Portrait of Erika


Erika, 57, has worked in various occupations, including as an aged care worker. When she lost her employment some years ago, she became homeless, sleeping rough on the streets of St Kilda in Melbourne and then moving into precarious accommodation in a private rooming house. Today she lives in public housing and is a passionate advocate for homeless people. She is a volunteer with Vincentcare and for the Council to Homeless Persons.

Portrait of Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith has had a long and distinguished career in the public sector and has well over 20 years of experience in leadership and management. She has worked in policy, management, government and in service delivery, and in health, mental health, and community health sectors. Jenny joined the Council to Homeless Persons (CHP) in 2011, following her role as General Manager Medical Services at St Vincent’s in Fitzroy. There her responsibilities included emergency demand, addiction medicine, correctional health and mental health.

Jenny is passionate about applying her skills and experience to ending homelessness in Victoria and about working in partnership with those who have experienced homelessness, the specialist homelessness sector, government and the philanthropic and corporate communities.



Portrait of Lucy Adams

Lucy Adams

Lucy Adams is the manager and principal lawyer of Justice Connect Homeless Law, a specialist legal service for Victorians who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

In 2013, Lucy undertook a Churchill Fellowship, travelling to nine international cities and speaking with 60 experts about homelessness and the regulation of public space. Her work with Homeless Law is focussed on preventing homelessness and reducing the negative impact of the law on people experiencing homelessness. In 2016, she was the Law Institute of Victoria’s Community Lawyer of the Year.

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