True extent of Macarthur homelessness revealed

Picture: Karleen Minney
Picture: Karleen Minney

New statistics have revealed that Macarthur is experiencing a homelessness crisis - and there are concerns the Covid-19 pandemic will make it worse.

Homelessness Australia and national housing and homelessness campaigners Everybody's Home have released interactive heatmaps that show both the problem of homelessness and the solution of social housing.

Data showed that NSW had a shortfall of more than 135,000 social housing properties and more than 37,500 homeless individuals on any given night before Covid-19.

Modelling has shown up to 16,000 more people in NSW could experience homelessness as a result of the pandemic with job losses expected to rise in already high areas of rent stress, such as south-west Sydney.

The data also revealed that the Macarthur region has 2700 people waiting on social housing with 800 people already homeless.

Homelessness Australia chief executive Jenny Smith said the map showed homelessness and housing need affected all parts of Australia, urban and rural.

"People often think homelessness is an issue mainly in cities and CBDs, but the maps show that to be a myth," said Ms Smith.

"The lack of housing that people can afford is not only the biggest cause of homelessness, but it also prevents people escaping from homelessness."

This 'heatmap' from Everybody's Home demonstrates the prevalence of homelessness in regions across NSW. Picture: Everybody's Home

This 'heatmap' from Everybody's Home demonstrates the prevalence of homelessness in regions across NSW. Picture: Everybody's Home

Hume Community Housing, an organisation based in Claymore, is experiencing increased calls for assistance as the pandemic further impacts people struggling with job losses, reduced working hours, and increasing mental health challenges.

Hume's chief executive Nicola Lemon praised the state government's efforts to combat homelessness.

"We are seeing a growing need in the Macarthur region and we welcome the Together Home initiative, an important step by the Premier (Gladys Berejiklian) to help eliminate rough sleeping by 2025," she said.

"We firmly believe homelessness in an experience, and not an identity.

"Many people are on the verge of losing their jobs and their homes.

"It can happen to anyone so there is still a very long way to go in tackling widespread homelessness."

The $36 million Together Home project aims to reduce homelessness by increasing access to temporary accommodation and helping people maintain their tenancies.

Homelessness Australia and Everybody's Home is calling on Federal MPs to sign a social housing pledge, committing to investment in social housing and deliver urgently needed jobs, as a part of Homelessness Week (August 2-9).

A coalition of housing advocacy groups has developed the Social Housing Acceleration and Renovation Program (SHARP), which details how building 30,000 social homes over the next four years will create up to 18,000 jobs per year while combatting homelessness.

"The opportunity is now - the Morrison Government can fix the national social housing shortfall by creating the many thousands of jobs that Australia's economy is calling out for," Ms Lemon said.

"Creating jobs through constructing affordable and social housing is a win-win and a lifeline to both industry and struggling Australians."

Earlier this year local charities, including We Are Community, said they were struggling to get access to groceries and supplies in order to support the region's struggling families as coronavirus concerns grew.

We Are Community business development manager Paul Mackin said donations had dropped off by 90 per cent in March.

He said he had interacted with homeless people across Macarthur.

"There are rough sleepers, couch surfers and people living in heavily over-crowded situations," he said.

"In Wollondilly the numbers are slightly smaller than other areas of Macarthur and the people who are homeless in the shire are a lot less visible."

The Macarthur-based charity offered a night patrol to feed the homeless and a weekly breakfast among other services, however Covid-19 restriction had changed the way those services could be delivered.

This story True extent of Macarthur homelessness revealed first appeared on Camden-Narellan Advertiser.