Tents have been sent to house families on the Atherton Tablelands, while almost 4,000 people faced homelessness in Cairns last year.
Today, QCOSS will meet with community services across Cairns and Far North Queensland to discuss the social issues most affecting residents, including the housing crisis.
Vice-President St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland, Dennis Innes, said the housing shortage was at its worst across Far North Queensland, where rents have soared.
“In Cairns, people are being presented with new leases where their rent has gone up $80 a week or $100 a week – they are really struggling,” Mr Innes said. “The vacancy rate in Cairns is down to about 0.5%. You simply can’t go out and rent – it’s horrendous.”
“In Atherton, when there simply wasn’t any housing available, the Diocese of Far North Queensland got together, pitched in and got as many tents as we possibly could. We sent them up to Atherton so that when mothers were presenting with three kids, at least we could pay to put them into a caravan park.
“We know caravan parks are not ideal as a long-term solution, but it is better than having mums and children, or mums and dads and kids, sleeping in cars – at least they have got access to shower and toilets.”
QCOSS figures show the number of Cairns residents on the social housing register almost doubled in four years, from 1,103 in 2017 to 1,996 in 2021, while 3,738 people reported to Specialist Homelessness Services in the area for help.
A Queensland Audit Office report released earlier this month found Cairns residents are waiting almost two years for social housing.
QCOSS CEO Aimee McVeigh said that Far North Queensland needed greater investment in housing.
“Pressure on Cairns’ housing stock is increasing each month”, Ms McVeigh said. “A significant increase in funding is required, together with practical and supportive policy settings across all levels of government.”
“Every day, community services are faced with the dilemma of who to choose for the limited housing options available. They need to be supported through increased provision of social and affordable housing options.”
QCOSS and St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland, along with ten other leading community organisations across the state, have joined together to form the Town of Nowhere Campaign, which is calling for more social housing to fix the housing crisis.
Currently, there are more than 50,000 people on the social housing register waiting for a home, a population almost the size of Gympie’s.
Join the campaign here.