Our vision

Make Room will help break the cycle of homelessness for our city’s most vulnerable by providing access to specialist supported housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness.

Even though the provision of housing isn’t a traditional focus for local government, the City of Melbourne has stepped up to help address street homelessness and rough sleeping in our city.

We will demonstrate how we can build safe and supported housing, with integrated on-site health and social support services.

We are creating a place in the central city that provides tailored housing and health support to help people navigate the at-times complex housing, welfare and health systems.

This is the first step in a pathway-focused housing model, designed to support, prepare and transition people into sustainable long-term housing. 

602 Little Bourke Street

We are repurposing a Council-owned building located at 602 Little Bourke Street into 50 supported housing units designed to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness. 

602 Little Bourke Street is a vacant six-storey building, plus basement and roof top, and was formerly used as an electricity supply building. The building has an estimated asset value of $12 million, and the total cost of the refurbishment is estimated at $24.9 million. 

The building is being refurbished and converted into safe, supported transitional housing for people to live in for up to 12 month or until they can find long-term secure housing.

By providing tailored case management alongside safe, secure housing we can help break the cycle of homelessness, so people can get their lives back on track. 

Working together

We are working in partnership with Unison Housing, the Victorian Government and a range of partners, including philanthropists and corporates, to fund and deliver this project. In addition, onsite tailored support will be provided to residents to support them on their journey out of homelessness – breaking the cycle of rough sleeping – and on a pathway to permanent housing. 

The City of Melbourne has a significant track record of working in partnership with social, community and commercial partners and government to redevelop and build a diverse range of facilities and buildings for the community. Further funding is currently being sourced through philanthropic organisations. 

Our vision is for Make Room to set a new standard for transitional supported housing in Victoria.

Project background

  • Our whole community benefits when we work collaboratively to help people out of homelessness. We’ve seen that people can take back control of their lives when housing and bespoke support is available. 
  • We play a key role across the city to ensure that everyone in our community feels safe and our public spaces are clean, accessible and inclusive. 
  • Make Room will support people experiencing rough sleeping and homelessness by providing options into supported housing until secure housing can be found. 
  • Access to quality housing is critical for Melbourne’s liveability and economy.
  • Our research shows that for every $1 invested in affordable housing, there is a $3 benefit to the community due to worker retention, educational benefits, enhanced human capital, health cost savings, reduced family violence and crime. It is an investment in both essential infrastructure and people.
  • In addition to helping our community’s most vulnerable members, the project will also create more than 70 jobs in construction and dozens of ongoing jobs in housing and community services.
  • This project will deliver multiple jobs across a number of sectors, including direct and indirect full-time equivalent jobs in the construction phase as well as permanent, part-time and flexible clinical jobs and maintenance jobs.
  • We also commit to the employment of people with lived experience of homelessness to inform the design and development process.
  • We have prepared detailed designs working with our delivery partner Unison Housing. Unison’s extensive experience as a housing and homelessness services provider has brought best practice leadership to the design. 
  • As part of the consultation process, we developed Cultural Safety Guidelines that included an intensive engagement process with Aboriginal people with insights into homelessness. These guidelines help to ensure that culturally appropriate design and service delivery models have been applied to ensure residents feel welcome and included in the space.
  • The transitional supported housing for up to 50 residents at 602 Little Bourke Street draws on a range of national and international best practice supported housing models.
  • Each studio apartment will include a bedroom, kitchenette and ensuite bathroom. There will be 10 apartments across five levels. It will also include a rooftop space and garden/green area that enables interaction amongst the residents. 
  • A dedicated floor will provide safe and secure accommodation specifically focused on housing women experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
  • The 2021 Census recorded 1163 people experiencing homelessness in the City of Melbourne, out of 169,860 residents. The figure is down from 2016 when the Census recorded 1725 people as experiencing homelessness.
  • However, as the 2021 Census occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, this decline does not necessarily indicate an ongoing trend. For example, the Victorian Government accommodated people sleeping rough in hotels during this period, which could account for the decrease.

Overview in figures:

  • 130 people sleeping rough
  • 5 per cent were Aboriginal peoples (Aboriginal peoples only comprise 0.5 per cent of our population)
  • 15 per cent were young people aged 15 to 25 years old
  • 36 per cent of all people experiencing homelessness were women, and 20 per cent of women were young women aged 20 to 24 years old
  • 1163 people experiencing homelessness in total.

Source: ABS 2021 Census, released March 2023.

  • The City of Melbourne and Homes Victoria have been working in partnership to reduce the number of people sleeping rough in and around Melbourne’s central city for many years, including through the successful Melbourne Service Coordination (MSC) project which began in 2015. 
  • The Melbourne Service Coordination (MSC) project brings together representatives from 17 agencies who work with people sleeping rough in the central city. The program coordinates services for experiencing chronic homelessness and sleeping rough, tailoring specialists with the ultimate aim of creating pathways into permanent housing. MSC consists of specialist workers from a variety of services who work directly with people experiencing homelessness. The support these services offer include housing, health, mental health specialists, youth specific and other relevant support programs. 
  • In April 2020, the Melbourne By Name List (BNL) was established. This is a point-in-time tool that measures the level of homelessness within the municipality and monitors people on a case-by-case basis. 
  • In the 2021 Australian Census, a total of 1163 people were recorded as experiencing homelessness in the City of Melbourne. This figure includes all forms of homelessness, with 130 people identified as sleeping rough. The City of Melbourne partners with specialist homelessness service providers to maintain what is known as the Melbourne By Name List (BNL) – a tool that enables teams to account for every person experiencing chronic homelessness and sleeping rough in real time. The Melbourne BNL data shows that as of September 2023, the current number of people recorded as experiencing chronic homelessness and sleeping rough in the City of Melbourne is 78.

Make Room