Charity turns people away as Central Queensland homelessness crisis is tipped to be one of the nation’s worst

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Central Queensland’s homelessness crisis is forecast to become one of the worst in the nation next year, according to a new report by Equity Economics.

The report, commissioned by charity Everybody’s Home, predicts a 31.9 per cent increase in homelessness and a 55.2 per cent increase in housing stress in the region by June 2021.

Central Queensland already has the lowest rental vacancy rate on record and the second lowest in the state, according to the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ).

The General manager of Gladstone-based charity Roseberry Queensland, Colleen Tribe, said the figures were “gobsmacking” in a region already suffering from severe housing shortages.

“Things are really grim,” Ms Tribe said.

“Homelessness has increased somewhat after, or during the pandemic, and it hasn’t been able to rectify itself.

“There just aren’t the houses or homes available for people seeking them.”

Roseberry Queensland provides services for disadvantaged young people and families, including housing.

Charity turning people away

The rental vacancy rate in Rockhampton in October plunged to 0.3 per cent, according to REIQ data.

The demand has been attributed to a growth in mining, agriculture and construction projects.

Ms Tribe said she believed the situation had worsened further in the past three months of the year and the charity was struggling to cope with requests for help.

“One example in August, we had one social house, so a one-bedroom property and we had 204 enquiries for that one property,” she said.

Ms Tribe said some people who missed out on the property were forced to either live with friends in overcrowded conditions, move from the area or sleep rough in tents, caravans or cars.

She said housing stress created anxiety, depression, family breakdowns and domestic violence situations.

“All of that together, or even separately, is a cost to the community,” she said.

Ms Tribe anticipated Roseberry Queensland would have to turn more people away as it operated without any increase in funding.

“It’s really stressful. It’s traumatic for staff as well and it’s traumatic for the community,” she said.

“We were working off the smell of an oily rag, but it’s less than that now.

“It’s taking its toll on the workforce for the social sector. We’re seeing people being burnt out, similar to nurses and doctors, it’s happening with the social sector as well.”

Report says social housing is key

The Equity Economics report found homelessness at a national level would increase by 3.6 per cent next year.

Everybody’s Home spokesperson Kate Colvin had urged the Federal Government to invest more in social housing, which she said would provide “the most compelling social and economic return possible during an economic crisis”.

The report noted the social and economic benefits of social housing investment.

It said a $1.7 billion investment in Queensland would create more than 5,500 homes, 3,100 jobs and boost the state economy by $3.2 billion.

A spokesperson from the Queensland Department of Communities and Housing said they are already building more than 5,500 social homes across Queensland between 2017 and 2027 through the Housing Construction Jobs Program.

“The local investment of $35.5 million over the first five years will not only provide homes for Queenslanders in need, it will support 20 full time jobs per year on construction sites and many more through the building supply chain,” it said.

Since launching the program in 2017, it said contracts for 44 homes in Central Queensland had been awarded, and 34 of these have already been built.

The department said its $100 million Works for Tradies program launched this year would also build 215 social housing homes across the state in 2021, with 25 of those in Central Queensland.

The construction works are due to start in Frenchville in January next year, and will deliver seven homes to people in need.

The department said it acknowledges many areas across Queensland had a tight private rental market, and certain towns and cities had “very low” vacancy rates.

”The department’s state wide network of RentConnect officers work with local real estate agents and property managers ensuring vulnerable, low income households are given the best chance of renting privately,” it said.

Young people in need

Ms Tribe said young people particularly needed more social housing in Central Queensland, but they were often overlooked.

“Young people [who] are homeless are staying homeless,” Ms Tribe said.

“In Central Queensland, we’ve got a pretty generous community, but there’s only so much help that we can give.

“The real help is putting a roof over someone or a family, that’s the help that’s needed.”

By Jasmine Hines and Adam Stephens (Original ABC Article)