A new report makes clear that rough sleepers are just the tip of Victoria's homelessness iceberg, reports The Age.
The report Rough Sleeping in Victoria, completed ahead of a new Andrews government strategy to tackle the issue, was released as part of a two-day conference at Melbourne Town Hall organised by the Council to Homeless Persons.
It includes fresh figures on homelessness, compiled over the last two years, that show 37 per cent of those sleeping rough are in Melbourne's middle and outer suburbs – far outstripping just 8 per cent of the group in the city centre.
And it finds that the focus on rough sleeping in recent years, fuelled by media coverage and proposed new Melbourne City Council rules targeting street sleepers, is only the most high-profile end of Victoria's homelessness problem.
The state's rough sleepers made up just 6 per cent of 22,000 homeless people.
The focus on rough sleeping had masked a sharp jump in the number of homeless people living temporarily in badly overcrowded housing, the report found. Those sleeping in such conditions because they could not afford anything better had jumped by more than half in recent years.
And the city's property boom had also seen the closure of many boarding houses offering a cheap place to stay.
Most who experienced homelessness slept rough for only a short period, the majority less than a month.
"The perception of large numbers of people entrenched in rough sleeping is not supported by the evidence," the report said. "This is not to dismiss the risk of harm involved in any period of rough sleeping."
And a key cause of the problem was simple: not enough affordable places to live for those in crisis housing who are trying to find a more permanent home.