Toowoomba is experiencing “a significant spike” in people seeking help for housing, food, and domestic violence, as wait times for social housing more than doubles in the region.
Today, community organisations from across the Darling Downs are meeting at a QCOSS Town Hall event, to discuss the growing and distressing social issues residents are facing.
Queensland Government figures show the wait time for social housing has more than doubled in Toowoomba from 8.2 months in 2017, to about 18 months this year, while the number of homeless applicants almost doubled from 237 in 2017, to 436 in 2021.
Lifeline Darling Downs & South West Queensland CEO Grant Simpson said while the figures for the Darling Downs and South West were frightening, they weren’t surprising.
“There is just a real lack of housing stock, and so many people are coming to the area for very, very different reasons,” Mr Simpson said. “They’ve come from out west trying to find opportunities. Young families are coming from very expensive metropolitan areas, which they can’t afford to live in anymore. Young, and also older, women are fleeing unsafe or domestic violence situations – that has increased as well.”
Mr Simpson said there had been “a significant spike” in demand for help from his organisation, especially given the bleak winter, the housing crisis, and the recent floods.
“We’re looking at about a 30 per cent increase in demand. Often people come in just to supplement their groceries, because they need to pay the rent and they’re often going hungry.”
He said Toowoomba had the highest suicide rate of any LGA area in Queensland, and the lack of hope and distress some people were currently experiencing was very concerning.
Lifeline Darling Downs & South West Queensland is one of 11 partners in the QCOSS-led Town of Nowhere campaign, which is calling for more social housing. More than 50,000 Queenslanders – almost the population of Gympie – are currently waiting for social housing.
“Because of the current crisis, housing is the centre point of all of the problems people are experiencing,” Mr Simpson said. “Unless they have a place to live, they really can’t get their life back in order and be resilient, all the other issues fall away.”
QCOSS CEO Aimee McVeigh said Lifeline Darling Downs & South West Queensland played an inspirational role in providing hope and meeting the needs of its clients, through its leadership in community programs like the Winter Shelter program, the Share the Warmth campaign, and its work with the Queensland Government’s Toowoomba Housing Hub.
“Working with churches to help provide homeless people with transport, a meal, and warm and safe pop-up shelters to sleep in at night is just one example of the creative and collaborative ways Lifeline Darling Downs works in order to help people,” Ms McVeigh said.
“We’re looking forward to meeting today with community services from across the Darling Down region, which urgently need more funding to meet the escalating needs of residents. Community services are only being provided with a funding indexation rate of 2.88%, whereas real cost increases are exceeding 10 per cent.
“We encourage people to support the Share the Warmth campaign, and the Town of Nowhere campaign, by visiting each campaign’s website.”