By Anna Rawlings
More than 200 homeless people are being turned away from Sunshine Coast accommodation each month, according to public housing experts.
Low housing availability and domestic violence have been blamed for the crisis, with the number of individuals seeking urgent accommodation rising by more than 1000 in the past 12 months.
Local charity SunnyKids CEO Chris Turner said the service provided up to 10,000 nights of accommodation on the Sunshine Coast to mothers and children escaping domestic violence last year.
“In Australia, domestic and family violence is the leading presenting issue leading to homelessness; however it is rare that this is the only issue,” Mr Turner said.
“Most homeless people, including families we support, face a complex matrix of challenges.”
He said the majority of their support is offered to young children aged under 12.
“Seventy-five per cent of the people we accommodate at SunnyKids are children.”
Lions Emergency Accommodation Centre Nambour coordinator Janet (surname withheld) said homeless services on the Sunshine Coast were permanently full.
“We turn away 200 people per month,” Janet said.
“It is incredibly difficult.”
Janet said the number of people in crisis ranged from single men to older women, people suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues and young families.
She said many people had been living in cars, sleeping on friend’s couches and on the street due to the lack of accommodation options.
“There are a lot of single men, and there is no accommodation in place for them. The population we see has a lot of mental health or substance abuse issues, so sharing for some is just not an option.”
“Someone with a six-month-old baby will get priority over a couch-surfer.”
As manager of a centre for providing support and crisis accommodation through the Department of Housing Public Works crisis accommodation program, Janet said she was concerned the local housing options would decrease.
“There is not enough affordable housing. The vacancy rate on the Sunshine Coast is less than one per cent,” she said.
“Over Easter is much worse, there is little to no affordable caravan parks, and they are so packed over the holiday.
“Certainly the Coast has a problem.”
A Homelessness Australia report tabled to the Federal Government highlighted the need for a long-term plan to prevent the crisis worsening. The report calls for extra funding of over $1 billion in the 2014 – 2015 Federal Budget over a five-year period.
Mr Turner said the Coast solution to homelessness lies in the pockets of residents.
“SunnyKids have a range of micro-philanthropy programs that give the community the opportunity to be part of the solution,” he said.
“People can donate anywhere from $1 a week to change lives. If the whole community did that, SunnyKids would have the resources we need to virtually end homelessness on the Sunshine Coast.”
He said homeless prevention would begin with economic stability, success in education, safe parenting and access to appropriate health care.
“Homelessness is not so much a problem in itself but a symptom of deeper issues that leave some people marginalised and vulnerable,” he said.
“If we could address those underlying issues then much of the pressure would be released.
“From SunnyKids perspective it would be of benefit to have more services available, however, beyond that what is absolutely essential is that the whole community takes responsibility for issues that lead to homelessness.
“As with all things in life, prevention is better than cure.”
To make a difference, visit www.sunnykids.org.au