Pop-up rooming house plan to combat rising homelessness

There are pop-up bars, shops and even parks. Now add pop-up homeless accommodation to that list.

One of Melbourne’s biggest housing and support agencies is pushing to team with the private sector to create pop-up rooming houses.

The agency plans to convert vacant office buildings awaiting redevelopment into temporary accommodation for people struggling with homelessness.

Launch Housing is leading the push, together with former Frasers Property Australia general manager Robert Pradolin.

They want to kit out vacant office floors with pods made from temporary partitions that can be quickly dismantled when the property owners need the space back.

The offices would also need to have existing bathrooms and showers that residents could use.

Launch Housing deputy chief executive Heather Holst said pop-up rooming houses might seem like a desperate response but homelessness was reaching crisis levels.

The City of Melbourne’s recent StreetCount confirmed those concerns, recording 247 people sleeping rough in the municipality, compared to 142 at the previous count in 2014.

The push for pop-up accommodation follows Melbourne City Council’s order yesterday for homeless people camping in Enterprize Park to pack up and move on.

Ms Holst said long-term housing was preferable to pop-up accommodation for dealing with homelessness.

“But to be thinking about this is a sign of how bad it has become,” she said.

Ms Holst said the offices would also need to be retrofitted so they complied with rooming house safety standards.

The idea of pop-up accommodation was recently discussed at a meeting with housing and support service agencies and City of Melbourne representatives.

However, Ms Holst said the concept could be replicated in other areas with high levels of homelessness, including Melbourne’s inner south and Frankston.

Mr Pradolin said he had spoken to one major building company that was keen to be involved. He has also enlisted the Property Industry Foundation.

He said it made little sense for properties to lie vacant while people were homeless.

“We’ve had office buildings in the city that have been vacant for 10 years,” he said. “There is existing infrastructure that we can use to help the community.”

Mr Pradolin said existing properties awaiting redevelopment were ideal for the pop-up shelters.

“While they sit idle waiting for a permit we could fit them to assist in housing homeless people in the short-term.”

He said pop-up accommodation was a great way for property owners to make a social contribution without cost or liability to them.

Mr Pradolin said an office building at 555 Collins Street was an example of a property that could be used for shelters while it goes through a planning process.

A City of Melbourne spokeswoman said the pop-up rooming houses were one of many ideas the sector was discussing to create pathways out of homelessness.

The proposal emerged as welfare agencies prepared for the onset of winter.

Wintringham Specialist Aged Care chief executive Bryan Lipmann said he had concerns about the pop-up accommodation idea.

“Long-term solutions are needed,” he said. “I don’t think enough people understand how vulnerable the homeless are.”


This article was published in The Sydney Morning Herald. Click below for the original article: