AN innovative program to prevent homelessness has helped 15 Bendigo families maintain rental tenancies since operations began in July.

Back on Track is a joint collaboration between several Bendigo-based agencies who work with real estate agents and landlords to identify and support “at risk” tenants to prevent them from falling into homelessness.

Victorian Minister for Housing Wendy Lovell met with Haven chief executive officer Ken Marchingo on Wednesday for an update on the pilot program, which received $1.57 million as part of the state government’s Homelessness Action Plan.

Minister Lovell was impressed with the program’s early success.

“I was most impressed with the collaboration,” Ms Lovell said.

“It is an innovative approach. They are working with the local real estate agencies and it’s about getting them before they fall through the system.

“It’s early days yet, but it’s already had strong success.”

Ms Lovell said preventing homelessness would cost the state less in the long term.

“We need to support people and we need to address underlying reasons for people being unable to pay their rent and prevent them coming into the homeless system.”

Haven communications and marketing director Sue Masters said the initiative was getting results despite not being fully set up, and was on track in its aim to help 300 Bendigo families by the time the pilot program ended next year.

She said an information sharing session was held between the agencies and 45 real estate agents on Wednesday. “We have the major Bendigo real agencies on board,” she said. “We are currently giving them information and helping them with early identification so people are not falling out of private rental.

“They’re on board, it’s not going to work unless it works for them.”

Mr Marchingo told Ms Lovell the next step was to build up referrals and target private landlords to join the program.

Positive: Wendy Lovell MP and Ken Marchingo from Haven getting an update on the pilot project “Back on Track” which they praised as innovative and effective. Picture: Jim Aldersey

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