From the Newsroom

Homelessness rising across Clarence Valley

Rodney Stevens


Homelessness is on the rise across the Clarence Valley with the region identified as having the second highest increase in the state over the past year of people sleeping rough.

The annual street count by Homeless NSW found a 34 per-cent increase in the number of rough sleepers compared with last year, with 1623 people recorded sleeping rough in 2023, 69 of whom were located in the Clarence Valley.

This has prompted Homeless NSW to call on the NSW government to lift funding for homeless services and build more social housing after it found at the current rate of social housing investment it will take 80 years to meet the current demand.

Homelessness NSW CEO Trina Jones said the Clarence Valley, along with Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour and Eurobodalla joined the City of Sydney as the five areas with the highest increase of people sleeping rough.

“In the coldest recorded June in 13 years people are bedding down on streets, in tents and park benches because they don’t have a safe place to call home,” she said.

“This should not be happening in one of the wealthiest places on Earth.

“The rising cost of living and a dire shortage of affordable rental homes is fuelling a homelessness crisis across NSW.”

Ms Jones said Homelessness NSW was calling on the NSW government to increase the stock of social housing from 4.7 per-cent to 10 per-cent, plus properly fund homeless services to meet rising demand.

She said the annual street count found Byron Bay with 300 rough sleepers in 2023 exceeded the City of Sydney with 277, while the Clarence Valley had 69, Coffs Harbour 82 and Eurobodalla 59.

“We can end street sleeping but we need to invest in what works,” she said.

“The Together Home Program supported over 1,000 people off the streets into safe homes.

“It’s funded for those currently in the program until next year but doesn’t have the resources to accept new people into the program. 

“We are calling on the NSW Government to embed this program in an ongoing way to support people to access a safe home with support to keep it.

“The government must also urgently invest in more social housing which has been allowed to plunge over the past decade to historically low levels with waiting times blowing out to more than 10 years.”

In 2002, 68,500 people across the state were helped by specialist homelessness services.

Homelessness NSW said an average of 34,000 residential dwellings are built each year in NSW and approximately 700, or just two per-cent are social housing.

The St Vincent De Paul Society NSW CEO Yolanda Saiz said demand had increased since last year in the number of people asking for help, with one-third of those people seeking help for the first time and half saying they were struggling with the cost of housing.

“The rising cost of living combined with the brutal housing and rental market means people are being pushed to the very margins of society with no way out,” she said.