Last week was National Homelessness Week and a coalition of Clarence Valley organisations are making sure the issue affecting so many local residents is front and centre.
Social Futures Manager of Connecting Home and Reconnect Programs, Sonya Mears-Lynch says more than 230 people were recorded in the 2016 census as sleeping rough in the Clarence Valley.
“We actually believe the real figure is much higher, as so much homelessness is hidden away and difficult to measure. Still, I think people will be shocked to hear many locals are without a roof over their head this winter,” Ms Mears-Lynch said.
To raise increased awareness of regional homelessness Clarence Valley-based organisations who are members of the Clarence Valley Housing and Support Interagency which includes Social Futures, Momentum Collective, Our Healthy Clarence, Rural Adversity Mental Health program (RAMHP), NORTEC, Department of Fair Trading and the Clarence Valley Council along with others, are collaborating on a public installation and information stall.
Sleeping bags of different sizes, representing the different ages of people sleeping rough in the region appeared alongside local statistics and information at shopping centres in Grafton, Yamba and at the CWA Hall in Maclean and case workers were available offering local service information and support.
“The current lack of affordable housing in our area is adding substantial stress to community members. Finding safe, stable and sustainable housing for our program participants is becoming harder and harder,” Ms Mears-Lynch said.
“Our Connecting Home workers regularly attend local rental property viewings with often 20 or more potential tenants at each viewing. Such demand means the chance of a property being rented to a young person, a person with mental illness or families receiving Centrelink benefits is near impossible.”
The National Homelessness Week installation intends to inspire locals to take this issue into their own hands. People are encouraged to contact their local Member of Parliament to request more be done to address the housing crisis in our region. Suggestions on how to advocate for action can be found on the Social Futures website: www.socialfutures.org.au/whats-it-going-to-take