We know that the number of people trapped in the cycle of chronic homelessness is on the rise. It is one of the most visible social problems we face today. Lack of affordable housing options is the number one cause of homelessness, and it’s a nation wide issue.
Away from the streets the majority of homeless people are surviving in severely crowded dwellings, refuges, and other forms of crisis accommodation. Many of these options are not only temporary – they are unsafe.
Then there are the Almost Homeless – low income earners battling unaffordable rents and an absence of alternatives. Those people represent an incredible one in ten households – that is 850,000 people who are one more rent hike away from homelessness.
While our urban centres are certainly the most unaffordable – the squeeze is spreading further and further out. The last Census found that 60 per cent of Australians sleeping rough were outside the major cities.
Mandy Booker at Homeless Hub provides frontline services to the homeless population in the -Illawarra region, and free outreach services to the growing number of people who are at risk of becoming homeless. In the Illawarra region, around 1000 people are homeless each night, and the Homeless Hub is a lifeline for many of these people.
“There is a lot of media around prices and the lack of affordable housing. But it is so much more than sound grab – it is a deep problem that is hurting so many people from all walks of life.”
Many smaller townships like Wollongong are absorbing large numbers of people who are migrating in search of cheaper accommodation, safety, and accessible support services.
“We see lots of people who are migrating in search of safety, support and the hope of more affordable housing options.”
But even in regional Australia private rental options are too expensive – or simply unwilling to take on lower income tenants. Social housing stock is at historical lows with waiting lists ranging up to 10 years. Even the UN is concerned about the boiling housing market, lack of social housing, and its impact on average and low income earners.
We echo the position of the Council to Homeless Persons that we urgently need leadership on a National Affordable Housing and Homelessness Strategy. We need strong funding arrangements for the states to support local services.
Right now, the not-for-profit sector is shouldering the burden with ever shrinking government support. The majority of the programs we provide grants to have no public funding. StreetSmart grants are able to fill the gap with the support of businesses and individuals who are concerned about what is happening in their communities.
Homeless Hub is one of the services doing what it can, with the resources they have, to try and ease some of the pressure people in housing stress are facing.
“So many people are just barely keeping a roof over their heads. They are being priced out of their homes. Rather than wait until people become homeless, we really need to provide support for them to stay housed.”
This month our StreetFunder program is supporting Homeless Hub with a grant for their mobile outreach program. If you want to lend a hand, you can find out more here.