Census 2016: Affordable housing shortage in rural Australia has homelessness at 'crisis point'
Homelessness in rural Australia has now reached crisis point, welfare groups say.
Previous Census found 60 per cent of homeless people were outside major cities
Charities say situation worse during ski season when low-cost accommodation taken
Many accommodation centres are outside of regional towns
More than 100,000 people are homeless across the country, but agencies on the front line fear the number in regional areas is rising because of a chronic shortage of affordable housing.
It comes as the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) prepares to analyse the country's latest housing and population data.
The last Census found that 60 per cent of Australians sleeping rough were outside the major cities, 40 per cent of couch surfers were in country towns and 55 per cent of people sleeping in severely overcrowded dwellings were also in rural locations.
Director of 2016 Census data, Sue Taylor, said the figures could be even higher this year because it could be difficult to count homeless populations, particularly in regional areas.
"[There are] probably more homeless people in the regional areas but for people, for example, who are sleeping out rough in national parks, we have to know they are there to be able to go and count them," she said.
Candice Morrell from Mission Australia at Cooma in southern NSW agreed.
"It's more around couch surfing, people staying in overcrowded dwellings, in unsafe accommodation because there are no other options. So homeless people in regional Australia can be less visible," she said.
Ms Morrell described the shortage of affordable housing in regional Australia as a "crisis" and said the situation was worse during the ski season, when low-cost accommodation booked out.
"It pushes the prices up which creates a real issue for people to be able to access affordable housing," she said.
Youth on the streets is 'criminal'
One man affected is Rob Gailey, who has been homeless ever since his uninsured house burnt down seven years ago.
He recently moved to Cooma, where he has been trying to find work at the nearby ski fields. He ended up sleeping in the cold, until Mission Australia found him temporary accommodation.
"It is lovely. There's even a television," he said.
This is the first time Mr Gailey — who lives on $250 per week — has been offered proper shelter since becoming homeless.
Mission Australia said one of the most vulnerable homeless groups in Australia was youth, but the nearest refuges to many regional towns could be hours drive away.
That upsets older homeless people, like Mr Gailey.
"For somebody like me, being homeless it's a shame. But for somebody who is 16 and cannot find a place to stay is criminal," he said.
Source: ABC News