Housing services reveal heartbreaking choices they are being forced to make

Homeless families are being forced to split up, with some parents choosing to sleep in their cars while their children stay elsewhere to keep them safe.

Siblings are also being split up into different homes to keep them housed.

Housing and homelessness services have revealed the heartbreaking choices they are making – choosing between families, pensioners and other people sleeping on verandas, in tents or in cars – when a rare home becomes available.

Kyabra Community Association, which works across Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane’s Micah Projects, and Anglicare Central Queensland, have all shared some of the distressing circumstances their clients are in, ahead of tomorrow’s state budget.

Kyabra Community Association Intake and Assessment Team Manager, Shirley Gration-Collins, said their organisation was seeing “more families split up” to prioritise their children’s safety.

“Mum and dad might be sleeping in their car while their children stay with family or friends just to make sure that the children have a roof over their head,” Ms Gration-Collins said.

“We will have about 60 people on our books and when a house comes up, we have to choose between a family sleeping on a veranda – where it is cold – or a family in a tent or a family in a car – we have to decide who needs that house more,” she said.

“I had one man come to us last week and say, ‘You are going to tell me what everyone else is telling me at the moment, aren’t you? You don’t have anything for me, do you?’ and the answer was, ‘Yes, I am really sorry, we don’t right now’, and that is distressing.”

Anglicare Central Queensland Housing and Homelessness Manager Adam Klaproth said their organisation was facing a similar situation, with about 80 families, single people and couples on their books waiting for a home, and more people approaching them daily.

“But there are no houses,” Mr Klaproth said.

“We are also having to choose between people who are living in cars or tents, and we use a human rights framework to make that decision,” he said. “We are getting about 11 people a day approaching us for housing.”

Micah Projects CEO Karyn Walsh said last weekend they spoke to a mother whose young daughter had asked, “Do we have to sleep in the car again tonight?”.

“This is a problem that is not going away and for which many children, even babies with their parents and siblings, are experiencing the uncertainty about each day – where will they eat or live?” Ms Walsh said.

She said Micah Projects had recently paid over $900 a night for a family “who desperately needed to be accommodated out of the cold”, with “so many” individuals staying with friends and family because they did not have a suitable place to live.

“Many women are living with violence and abuse because they are staying at home with no option to leave and seek a pathway to safe housing, many with children.  Women are living in cars whilst their children are in care because they do not have a safe place to live.

“Homelessness, poverty and trauma are the companions of people where there will be lifelong ramifications the longer it goes on.”

The community organisations form part of the Town of Nowhere campaign, which is calling on the state and federal governments for more funding for social housing. The latest state government figures show more than 50,000 Queenslanders are currently waiting on the social housing register for a home – a number almost equal to the population of Gympie.

QCOSS CEO Aimee McVeigh said the stories community services were sharing were devastating. She said more investment and accelerated construction was needed.

“It is fantastic to see a partnership between the Queensland Investment Corporation and the Brisbane Housing Company, a community organisation and QCOSS member, to deliver 1200 new social and affordable homes,” Ms McVeigh said.

“The funding for this project comes from the Housing Investment Fund, which uses interest earned to fund construction. It makes sense to put more money in this fund and deliver more projects like this so that more Queenslanders have a roof over their head.

“There are Queensland women and children right now living in cars, tents and motels because there is nowhere else to go. There are elderly people couch surfing. There are children growing up in domestic violence shelters because there is nowhere else to go,” she said.

“These Queenslanders cannot keep waiting for the wheels of Government to turn to find a safe home to live in.

“Queensland’s Housing Minister Leeanne Enoch has said that she is anticipating even more social housing applications given the current pressures many Queenslanders are facing.

“We don’t just need a record funding announcement, we need sustained funding and more houses built at a much faster pace.

“We need more money for social housing in tomorrow’s state budget.”

20 June 2022