Gympie’s housing crisis has reached an unprecedented and heartbreaking level, with about 70 residents per month seeking help for homelessness at just one service, and domestic violence victims trapped with nowhere to go.
Many people are facing homelessness for the first time in the area, as some residents leave due to a rise in eviction notices and soaring rents, community services say.
The region’s housing shortage, domestic violence, mental health issues, and substance abuse, all exacerbated by flooding, are some of the key issues being dealt with by local community services, ahead of a QCOSS Town Hall event today. The event, to be attended by social services from across the region, will look at the critical issues most affecting the community, and what is needed to help.
Community Action Inc Operations Manager, Andrea Matthews, said while the region’s residents were resilient and notorious for helping each other in adversity, some had been hit by flooding up to five times this year, and the devastating impacts had been felt by all.
“The housing situation in Gympie is critical,” Mrs Matthews said. “Our services on average are seeing over 70 people per month who are presenting as homeless.
Over just 12 months, the service has provided more than 6,000 ‘bed-nights’ for domestic violence crisis accommodation and more than 4,000 nights of youth crisis accommodation. They’ve helped more than 100 residents waive about $250,000 in debts, provided support for hundreds of children and migrants, and helped with about 150 tenancies.
Mrs Matthews said like other services in the area, they faced unprecedented demand.
“I think it is a colliding of issues including natural disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic, the rising cost of living, housing stress, job loss, reduced recreational and social activities.
“The toughest situations our services and clients face, on the whole, would be homelessness. We are seeing huge numbers of people needing housing, and many who have never experienced this before. We are seeing people living in tents, people overcrowding tenancies, women and children remaining in homes where they are not safe, substandard and makeshift housing, squatting, sleeping rough and couch surfing.
“We need more affordable housing options, the extension of National Affordability Rental Scheme, and increased funding for existing services.”
QCOSS CEO Aimee McVeigh said Gympie’s housing crisis was at an unacceptable level.
“Services are telling us that a rising number of long-term residents are being forced to leave the area due to eviction notices and soaring rents,” Ms McVeigh said. “The housing crisis, which has been exacerbated by the floods, needs immediate and increased attention.
“Residents across the region, who’ve had to deal with the devastating impact of the floods, need short-term, medium-term and long-term solutions from all levels of Government.”
She said people looking to help could donate to Community Action Inc. on their website, and join QCOSS’s Town of Nowhere campaign, in which services across the state were calling for more social housing. Statewide, there are more than 50,000 people waiting on the state’s social housing register for a home, almost the same size as Gympie’s population.