Women and children being physically assaulted, families sleeping in cars, and elderly people couch surfing because they have nowhere to go must remain the focus of this week’s Housing Summit.

Community services from across the state say the Queensland Government must not stray from the thing that is needed to fix the housing crisis – more social and affordable housing.

QCOSS CEO Aimee McVeigh said Queensland’s growth and prosperity had created the conditions needed for the housing crisis to be solved.

“Heading to the Housing Summit, people living in cars, tents and motel rooms, young and old people couch surfing, and people sleeping on the street must be front of mind,” McVeigh said.

“The young mum couch surfing with her newborn. The elderly woman sleeping with her child with disabilities on a friend’s floor. The mum choosing to cop physical abuse so that her kids don’t have to sleep in a car. The parents trying to get their children ready for school in tents. Men and women sleeping on riverbanks in swags given to them by community services. The families sleeping in garages with no fresh air.

“The retail workers, security guards and cleaners who have jobs, but no house available to go to.

“These people are in Brisbane, Cairns, on the Darling Downs, the Gold Coast and in regional, rural and remote towns.

“More than 10,000 Queenslanders are seeking help from Specialist Homelessness Services every month.

“This summit must commit to every Queenslander having a roof over their head by 2032, and 5,000 social homes being built every year for the next decade.”

Wesley Mission Queensland Director of NDIS, Health and Social Services, Michelle Skinner, said those experiencing homelessness and housing stress needed action now.

“In the last 12 months, we have seen double-income families who have never needed support before struggling to find affordable and safe accommodation, older women – who should be enjoying their retirement and grandchildren – suddenly displaced due to rising rental costs, and young people living day-to-day couch surfing because there’s simply not enough housing options available.

“While the Housing Summit is a step in the right direction and will be a great opportunity for collaboration, it is important that the focus remains on those who are experiencing homelessness and incredible stress due to the lack of secure and affordable housing.”

Anglicare Central Queensland Housing & Homelessness Manager Adam Klaproth said their region was in the middle of an “unprecedented housing crisis” with no social or affordable housing in the pipeline.

The vacancy rate is down to 0.3% in Rockhampton.

“Central Queensland is far too often overlooked by Government. It is important we have representation at the summit and a regional voice. What works in the densely populated South East corner of Queensland does not transfer to our communities. We need regional responses to this crisis and who better to develop and deliver those than the people living and operating in these communities. We applaud the Premier in her address for the acknowledgement of requiring regional solutions, but without representation at the table, those are just meaningless words that will not deliver regional solutions,” he said.

“We also have major infrastructure projects commencing, like The Rockhampton Ring Road and Gladstone Hydrogen Plant, coupled with increased renewable energy projects that are only going increase demands on the rental market. Without a fast-tracked, multi layered plan, our housing crisis will worsen before it gets better across our region.”

Lifeline Darling Downs and South West Queensland CEO Grant Simpson spoke of one woman they were helping who had fled domestic violence and now needed a home to be able to be reunite with her children.

“But with 1,445 people waiting on social housing and rental vacancies rates of 0.3% in Toowoomba, this is a near impossibility,” Mr Simpson said.

“She experiences stress, separation anxiety, depression, and hopelessness due to her situation. She knows there is no clear timeline to find a stable home for her family, and no clear pathway insight to improve her situation and those of her kids.”

Community services in Brisbane have also spoken of mothers losing their children, or being in fear of losing them, because they have no secure housing to go to.

St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland CEO Kevin Mercer said when families were resorting to sleeping in tents and cars just to survive, there was a duty to move towards a future in which everyone had access to safe, secure, and affordable housing.

“The Housing Summit is a critical opportunity, led by our State Government, for all levels of Government and industry representatives to put their heads together to ensure Queensland is on the right path out of this housing crisis,” Mr Mercer said.

“We look forward to joining the Premier, all levels of Government, QCOSS and other sector representatives in advocating for short-term and long-term solutions to ensure every Queenslander has a right to a safe and secure place to call home.”

St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland, Anglicare Central Queensland, Wesley Mission Queensland, and Lifeline Darling Downs & South West Queensland are part of the statewide Town of Nowhere campaign, which includes leading community organisations from across the state calling for more social housing to fix the housing crisis.

Currently, there are about 46,000 Queenslanders on the state Social Housing Register waiting for a home – a population almost the size of Gympie.

18 October 2022