A New South Wales coastal town has run out of options when it comes to finding a roof for its most vulnerable residents, a homelessness service says.
- A Port Stephens homeless support service is warning it has reached crisis point
- The Mayor says housing approval delays are exacerbating the shortage
- Social workers are reaching breaking point as they watch families teeter on the brink
The Port Stephens Family and Neighbourhood Service has warned that families on low incomes and unemployment benefits are already being priced out of the local rental market but will find it even harder when payments like JobKeeper and JobSeeker end in March.
Team leader Ann Fletcher said her staff were unable to even offer temporary housing.
“I’m feeling quite concerned that we are going to be seeing a whole cohort of people that are sleeping rough, sleeping in their cars, making makeshift tent cities in parks under the bridge here in Raymond Terrace,” she said.
Ms Fletcher said her organisation had funding to assist about 350 people a year.
In the last half of 2020, 500 were seeking housing.
“We have far exceeded our numbers in this past six-month period,” she said.
“People on a low income or on a Centrelink benefit are just not able to compete in the rental market now — they’re just not able to.”
Ms Fletcher said more social and affordable housing stock was desperately needed.
Housing delays contributing
Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer said the delay in the construction of a housing estate near Raymond Terrace – which has been on the books for 11 years – was a major issue for the region.
“We’ve had delays in some developments … the big one being Kings Hill, just before Christmas,” he said.
“We’re missing out on 3,500 new properties for Port Stephens, which is really important to provide affordable housing and provide blocks of land at a reasonable price.”
He said any increase in homelessness was a concern, but he was also worried about the impact the housing shortage was having on local businesses.
“It’s also affecting employment across Port Stephens — we’ve got people who are wanting to work that can’t get a residence in the area,” he said.
While several motels in the Port Stephens area were offering support for people facing homelessness, Ms Fletcher said temporary accommodation options were drying up as the tourism industry started to recover from the pandemic.
She said she was now having to manage depression and burnout among her staff as the task of helping desperate families grew harder.
“Just in terms of keeping my team buoyant when they’re coming at us all the time, looking to us to provide solutions, and we actually have nothing to offer them,” Ms Fletcher said.
“It’s quite damaging to our own mental health.