Homelessness services in Port Stephens say that a lack of affordable housing is only one of a number of factors as to why more than 300 people are experiencing homelessness in the Paterson electorate.
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Petra Ossen is the Manager of the Yacaaba Centre in Nelson Bay, a service which provides referrals and counselling services to those in need.
She said that reasons for homelessness in the area were wide-ranging.
“It is very broad. Family or relationship breakdown are big factors. Sometimes it is a loss of job or income, particularly now with COVID. Because in our area a lot of jobs rely on tourism and hospitality, we are seeing more people without work. The other factor is the cost of rentals,” she said.
Ann Fletcher, the Assistant Manager of Port Stephens Family and Neighbourhood Services in Raymond Terrace, helps run a variety of early-intervention programs aimed at the homeless or those at risk of becoming homeless.
She said that domestic violence is a large contributing factor to the issue of homelessness locally.
“Domestic violence is part of the story of the majority of our clients. For quite a large number of women and children and youth in particular, it is the main reason why they are homeless,” she said.
Mrs Fletcher also said that low levels of welfare payments made it difficult for many to afford to rent.
“The other thing for me, is the levels of the Centrelink benefits. People can’t exist on what they receive through the Centrelink benefit.”
“At the moment, with the COVID supplement, that will help some people manage, however, it still isn’t being factored in in the calculation of weekly income for someones affordability to rent,” she said.
Mrs Ossen said that poor local public transport options and a limited availability of temporary housing, made it difficult for those who become homeless, to get themselves back off the streets.
“Even now in our recent experience with the Together Home Program which is trying to get the rough sleepers off the street during COVID in our area, it is so difficult.”
“Quite often the people who are homeless may not be capable of catching public transport, which is already poor in the area. For them to be able to access some temporary accommodation, they would need to travel to Raymond terrace,” she said.
By Doug CONNOR