News

More homeless in Echuca amid COVID

By Ivy Jensen

HOMELESSNESS is increasing in Echuca-Moama amid the COVID-19 fallout, and welfare services are struggling to keep up with demand.

Anglicare Victoria Youth and Community Services Echuca program manager Kirsten Rabbitt said COVID-19 has had a real impact on those in the community who were doing it tough.

“We are seeing significant unprecedented numbers of people accessing crisis accommodation support during this pandemic,” she said.

“We have people who have never needed additional help coming to us to access our housing support services.”

Echuca-Moama Salvation Army is also seeing clients who have never needed help before.

“There are people who are staying at motels who are paying large accommodation costs, leaving only a few dollars for food, and others who have been living at caravan parks who are now living in their cars or on the street, because the parks have closed down,” Lieutenant Sonia Edwards said.

To make matters worse, new research has revealed one in seven women in regional Victoria has been homeless in the past five years.

YWCA National Housing surveyed 1039 women living on low to moderate incomes across regional Australia to determine their access to affordable housing.

The research found 14 per cent of women living in regional Victoria reported having been homeless in the past five years and 2.3 per cent were homeless in late 2019.

One in six Victorian research participants also knew of at least one woman who was homeless.

Ms Rabbitt said the figures were disturbing but not surprising.

“The local homelessness support service has experienced a significant increase in the number of people requesting assistance in the Echuca region in recent months,” she said.

Centre for Non-Violence works with many women across Campaspe who are homeless or facing homelessness as a result of family violence.

“All too often we have no medium or long-term housing options available due to a shortage of supply and even the emergency or crisis accommodation is not suitable,” client services general manager Yvette Jaczina said.

‘‘This is most apparent in regional and rural areas. This is a sector-wide issue; we see local housing services struggle with the same issue and despite Royal Commission recommendations for priority housing for victims of family violence, the reality is we cannot source housing for many victims of family violence. We need more affordable housing options.’’

YWCA National Housing and Property development director Jan Berriman said domestic violence was the leading cause of homelessness for women in Australia.

“In regional areas, the impacts are even more severe because social services and supports may be limited and strained to start with,” she said.

“We need to urgently double and diversify affordable housing options in the regions or face a tsunami of homeless women and children.”

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