A SURGE in homelessness in the outer east region has spurred community leaders to hold a forum on the issue in Lilydale.
The Affordable Housing and Homelessness forum, to be held this Thursday, will bring together interested members of the public with local councillors and staff from housing and welfare organisations.
Prue Smith, of Anglicare Victoria, says the main issues are poverty, medical health problems and disability.
"For people on Centrelink payments, that can be their only source of income. Paying rent takes such a big slice of that money," she said.
Ms Smith said statistics suggested single men and people suffering mental health problems were at a higher risk of experiencing homelessness due to the shortage of emergency housing.
"There is emergency housing, but it's full up.
"In theory, you can go on the waiting list, but if you went on the list today you would be lucky to get a house in 10 to 15 years," she said.
Ms Smith told of one young man who lost his job then his long-term relationship and, as a result, had nowhere to go.
"He left his backpack under a bench at a bus station during the day," she said.
The housing forum will be aimed at workshopping strategies for increasing the supply of housing, spreading awareness of the issue of homelessness and possibly developing a campaign to lobby governments for extra funding.
Ms Smith said most people weren't aware of the problem of homelessness.
"It doesn't happen to most people; it's only in a crisis that it happens. But it's a short step to being in a place that you don't want to be.
"You could lose your job, then find you can't pay the bills, and that's when these things occur."
The housing forum is at the Anglicare Victoria offices, 47-51 Castella Street, Lilydale, on Thursday from 9.15am to 12.45pm.