CQ's tragic homelessness issue placed under the spotlight
CENTRAL Queensland is struggling to cope with the problem of homelessness, and there are calls for all levels governments to do more to address the situation.
Homelessness is often hidden - with people sleeping rough, in their cars, couch surfing, hostels or squatting, and because of this many communities consider it a non-issue.
Every year in the first week of August, Homelessness Week seeks to shine a spotlight on the issue; raising awareness of people experiencing homelessness, the issues they face and the action needed to achieve enduring solutions.
Locally, AnglicareCQ is the organisation primarily responsible for supporting those doing it tough and so far this year they have assisted hundreds of people with nowhere to sleep that night, or were at risk of homelessness.
Anglicare Service Delivery Manager Carol Godwin said having a place to call home was a basic human right that many across CQ, both young and old, lived without.
She said AnglicareCQ had supported or provided crisis housing for almost 560 CQ people since the start of the year.
Of those assisted, Ms Godwin said approximately 60 per cent of those seeking help were female, with young people between the age of 20 and 29 years needing the most assistance.
Currently there are 165 people around CQ who are sleeping rough - approximately 30 per cent of those who sought assistance from AnglicareCQ with around the same percentage impacted by a mental health condition.
In addition to this, 800 people across CQ have sought emergency relief to assist in a financial crisis - often to assist with obtaining or retaining their housing.
"Young people who tend to have lower incomes are particularly vulnerable and this flows through to impacting on other areas of their lives such as employment, mental health, relationships and their sense of belonging in our communities," Ms Godwin said.
"The likelihood of being homeless increases if you add to that equation young people who are exiting from state care - 63% of homeless youth have had a background within the child protection system. Single women over 55 years are also a higher risk group with many struggling financially, no or low superannuation, limited employment history having previously assumed the role of homemaker."
Ms Godwin said their 27 crisis properties across CQ locations were constantly full (other than when repairs were required) and big gaps existed around crisis accommodation options on the Capricorn Coast.
"There is no current crisis housing so individuals and families often remain in unsafe or unsatisfactory living situations," she said.
"Alternatively they may relocate to Rockhampton for this housing however, this moves them away from their community, support and schools (many have children).
"We have a commitment from the Department of Housing and Homelessness to allocate a 2 or 3 properties in Yeppoon but to date they haven't been able to source the properties so the quota has been increased in Rockhampton (we hope for the short term only).
"We continue to advocate for this housing option to open up for the people living rough on the Coast. Our homelessness team visit Yeppoon twice a week to provide support to people in the community - they're based out of the Yeppoon Neighbourhood Centre but also conduct home visits."
Ms Godwin said Youth Housing options were another big gap because they were harder to house as landlords considered them higher risk, plus they are on lower incomes (Newstart and Youth Allowance).
She said rental affordability for young people across Australia was a major issue with often nothing for them - certainly not for sole tenancies in the private market.
"The other gaps are around support people - the demand for support to sustain or obtain housing is significant and we simply can't meet the need especially here in the Rockhampton area," she said.
"We do our best to manage an ever growing wait-list (32 individuals/families currently awaiting support).
"But people need the support when they come through the door as they're already in crisis at this stage. It's especially important that service is provided if a person's tenancy is at risk so it can be sustained."
Once people moved into homelessness, she said there were a number of issues and barriers that then need to be worked on to regain their housing plus in addition to overcoming the stressors and stigma associated with being in that situation.
"Something we'd love to see up and running in the Rockhampton community is a drop in centre - where those who are homeless can have a shower, meal, do their washing and link with support services," she said.
AnglicareCQ relies on government funding and Ms Godwin said she would like to see different levels of government doing more including local councils who could provide rates exemptions for crisis and community housing providers.
"We know that others do but not Rockhampton or Yeppoon. Rockhampton were a flat and fast no," she said.
"Livingston indicated a commitment but that's yet to be realised. We're trying to negotiate this to support future crisis accommodation we are trying to secure in Yeppoon."
As the housing stock became older, she said the ongoing cost of repairs and maintenance to community housing stock made it harder when it came to trying to break even.
"We have a good working relationship with our funders (Department of Housing and Homelessness) but we can always do with more funding to do more especially around providing more support," she said.
"We'd value increased assistance to maintain community housing properties and to provide much needed furnishings for crisis accommodation, including linen and other household items.
"There's simply not sufficient funding to cover these costs so providers need to get very creative and/or fit the costs themselves.
"The department has reinstated a much needed maintenance exemption for our crisis accommodation properties, however, it is very difficult to maintain properties to a good quality, along with paying for ever increasing rates costs."
Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke has outlined his government's response to CQ's homelessness situation which includes an additional $35 million for building more social housing.
Responses to the issue were expected next week from Rockhampton Regional Council, Livingstone Shire Council, Keppel MP Brittany Lauga and Capricornia MP Michelle Landry.
Do you need housing help?
Contact AnglicareCQ on 1300 769 814
Go online: qld.gov.au/housing or phone: 13 QGOV (13 74 68)