Startling figures released by organisations such as Mission Australia, ac.care and COTA SA have revealed that a homelessness crisis caused by housing unaffordability is currently underway in the state.
In the Naracoorte region, Mission Australia has identified 52 people who could be considered ‘homeless’. The definition of homeless in Australia includes those living inside a car, in an overcrowded sharehouse, or squatting in a friend or family member’s house.
It’s been 30 years since Mission Australia held their first Sleepout fundraiser in Australia, which has seen 50,000 people take part and raise over $3 million for homelessness services.
But Mission Australia CEO James Toomey believes there’s still more to be done:
“Homelessness rates in Australia are rising, which is largely due to the escalating costs of rental properties and a lack of social and affordable housing,” he said.
“There’s never been a more critical time to shed light on the effects of the housing affordability crisis.”
Trish Spark, who works for ac.care, has stated that the lack of affordable housing in Naracoorte is “a huge issue.”
In the Anglicare Australia report Rental Affordability Snapshot it found that as of March this year, 339 private rentals were advertised across the Limestone Coast, Murraylands/Adelaide Hills, and the Riverland.
By analysing the rent costs, the report found that many people on minimum wage could afford to live in these properties.
(With the exception of single people on minimum wage, with only 10% able to).
However if a person was reliant on government subsidies, things became much more dire:
- Couple, two children (<10), on Newstart: 18% could afford
- Single, two children (<10), on Parenting Payment Single: 10% could afford
- Couple, no children, on Age Pension: 24% could afford
- Single, one child (<5), on Parenting Payment Single: 9% could afford
- Single, one child (>8), on Newstart: 1% could afford
- Single, on Age Pension: 3% could afford
- Single (>21), on Disability Support Pension: 3% could afford
- Single, on Newstart Allowance: 0% could afford
- Single (>18), on Youth Allowance: 0% could afford
- Single, in share house, on Youth Allowance: 0% could afford
In regional areas, many single people are youth. In the 2016/17 financial year, 475 clients in the Limestone Coast accessed Anglicare homelessness services: 26% were aged between 15-24.
According to Mission Australia and Anglicare Australia, the key causes of youth homelessness were unemployment and underemployment; family violence; and generational poverty.
But COTA, the peak advocacy body for older Australians, has warned that the lack of housing affordability will also cause a crisis among aging residents.
More than 4,600 people over the age of 65 are currently experiencing significant housing stress in SA’s metropolitan and regional areas. The risk of being homeless has been identified as the key source of financial and psychological stress in elder Australians.
Older women are particularly affected, whether there has been a relationship breakdown or they’re widowed. Because of caregiving duties, many women may have gaps in their employment history. This can leave them underemployed or unemployed later in life, which in turn affects their superannuation amount.
COTA SA have appealed to the State Government to include disadvantaged older South Australians in their Housing Strategy, and push for more services and accommodation.
The Government has also taken into consideration the needs of an aging population. Their Ageing Well project takes into consideration housing and isolation, as well as employment, health, and transport.
On a broader level, Anglicare have advocated for policy changes which could ease homelessness: raising welfare allowances, family violence intervention policies, more jobs in regional areas, and providing solutions for the energy crisis.
On a regional level, ac.care provide many services for the disadvantaged here in the Limestone Coast. They can provide emergency accommodation; short term transitional housing; case management to assist people obtain long term housing; and intensive tenancy support to prevent homelessness.
This winter you can make a donation of warm blankets and food items for ac.care to the Naracoorte Uniting Church. The Church itself can provide counselling and emergency financial assistance.
To contact ac.care you can call 8723 0540. They have caseworkers who visit Naracoorte, and appointments can be made to have meetings at Limestone Coast Training, 73 Smith Street.
The Uniting Church (9 Foster St) is open Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and can be reached on 8762 0377.
Naracoorte’s St. Vincent De Paul (212 Smith Street) can also provide financial assistance. They are open Tuesdays and Thursdays (9am – 1.30pm) and Saturday (9am – 11.30pm).
And, Mission Australia are hosting their annual Sleepout fundraiser during National Homelessness Week (August 6-12). More information about organising your own Sleepout fundraiser can be found here: www.missionaustralia.com.au/sleepout