COLD REALITY: Virus puts us at risk of winter homelessness

BUNDABERG has been identified as one of the most vulnerable regions in the state for rent and mortgage stress due to COVID-19 unemployment risk.

Seer Data and Analytics used Census data to evaluate the proportion of people employed in industries deemed vulnerable under coronavirus restrictions.

This information was compared against the household stress of an area, where 30 per cent or more of a household's income is spent on rent or mortgage payments.

Bundaberg was revealed as the fourth worst off in Queensland.

"The real purpose of the analysis is to flag those areas where an analysis of the industries and pre-existing housing conditions would suggest that these are areas where things could go south quickly for people," Seer co-founder and chief data scientist Adam Peaston said.

"There's a moratorium on evictions, which is going to be at least holding off on people losing their homes and losing their housing straight away, but we're going to need to be thinking very carefully about what happens when that lifts, because there will be a lot of people for whom that was really the stopgap for them."

 

The Seer data compared the percentage of people employed in vulnerable occupations against the percentage of households paying more than 30 per cent of income on rent or mortgage. The figures, using latest Census data, showed more than half of Bundaberg locals were employed in occupations deemed vulnerable due to COVID, and about 18 per cent of households spent more than 30 per cent of income on
The Seer data compared the percentage of people employed in vulnerable occupations against the percentage of households paying more than 30 per cent of income on rent or mortgage. The figures, using latest Census data, showed more than half of Bundaberg locals were employed in occupations deemed vulnerable due to COVID, and about 18 per cent of households spent more than 30 per cent of income on

 

The NewsMail spoke to the team at local not-for-profit Regional Housing Limited about the services available to those who find themselves sleeping rough.

Area Manager Hannah Scott said they have a range of different services, which had expanded slightly since the COVID outbreak, with the organisation receiving state funding for outreach services and additional federal government emergency relief funding to expand on current service provision to meet local demand.

"We have qualified field staff that go out actively looking to make contact with people who are currently sleeping rough, couch surfing or have been displaced because of loss of employment due to COVID," Ms Scott said.

Support project Team Leader Simone Corey had not yet seen an increase of people sleeping rough but that homelessness was more visible at the moment.

"We're a community where there's a lot of couch surfing as well, but with the restrictions that were in place with COVID, couch surfing seemed to be something that people couldn't do anymore, so that visible homelessness is a lot more prominent," Ms Corey said.

They said it would be rare for a person to present as homeless purely because of loss of income, as there were many services and stimulus' available that could help fill in the gaps.

 

There have been people reportedly sleeping rough in the Bundaberg CBD.
There have been people reportedly sleeping rough in the Bundaberg CBD.

 

"There might be factors that overlap with each other, but their circumstances are very individual," Ms Corey said.

"Homelessness is a complex trauma for everybody, so we need to look at it as a holistic approach rather than just focusing on that one element of it."

Ms Scott said their outreach approach involved providing vulnerable people with access to food hampers, hygiene packs to those in need, even phone credit.

"Our staff utilise our own housing and support programs and have strong working relationships other local agencies to meet complex needs, whether someone's in need of mental health support, clinician support, to see their doctor, whatever the situation may be," she said.

For those sleeping rough during the COVID lockdown, Ms Corey said one of the bigger challenges was just trying to stay clean.

"During COVID one of the biggest challenges is access to shower and toilet facilities with the communal ones being closed," she said.

"People who would cope normally because they have the ability to attend a communal area or a service for a shower no longer can do that, or to wash their clothes.

"When they're not able to have that self care for themselves then their mental health declines and their circumstances can decline dramatically with that."

Those in need can visit Regional Housing Limited at 30 Tantitha St or visit the website www.regionalhousing.org.au to discuss or view available support options.



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