Image (L-R): Angi Kuehnemann (Youth Support Worker), Maria Sloane (General Manager – Housing and Home Services), Bajinder Gill (Property Officer), Stuart Moar (Program Manager – Housing Services)
As Toowoomba’s rental market becomes increasingly competitive and vacancy rates drop to 0.05 per cent, YellowBridge Qld is delivering urgently-needed help to those at risk of homelessness.
YellowBridge Qld manages over 140 properties across Toowoomba, Oakey, Dalby and Goondiwindi to provide supported accommodation and transitional and long term housing to locals.
The Housing Services team has seen the huge impact that programs like the Community Rent Scheme (CRS), Long Term Community Housing and Community Managed Studio Units are having on their clients’ lives.
“Our main focus with the CRS Program is making sure our tenants leave in a position where they can sustain a tenancy in the private rental market,” Youth Support Worker Angi Kuehnemann said.
“We work closely with other wraparound services to help them with living skills, budgeting and other areas which will help them succeed in the private rental market.
“When you’re in people’s homes, you’re front line – you see more of the social impacts in the community than anyone else. But we’ve had great outcomes so far, and when you see people entering the private rental market, especially in the current market, it really makes it worthwhile.”
The organisation also has youth-focused projects, including transitional supported accommodation at a local property known as The Haven.
YellowBridge Qld will also expand its youth offerings later this year when it launches the privately funded Youth Matters program. Seven new properties will be headleased under the program, which will provide focused services and holistic case management for 14 young people, with the aim of transitioning them into the private rental market.
“We have up to 130 homeless youth sleeping rough in Toowoomba on any night,” Angi said.
“The situation has been bad for a while, but Covid has seen an increase in young people struggling with access to suitable and affordable accommodation. Despite the existing services doing a wonderful job, there are only around 12 beds available for homeless youth on any given night so we’re excited about the positive impacts that programs like this will have.”
Like many organisations in the sector, uncertainty over funding is a major challenge.
But Housing Services Program Manager Stuart Moar says the other key issue is the growing gap that Yellow Bridge must cover on the cost of rent.
“When we come to renewing headleases in the current market, it’s very likely the landlord will want an increase in rent,” Stuart said.
“But our funding doesn’t increase in line with that, and because our tenants’ rent is calculated on their income support payments, the amount they pay rarely increases in line with the market rent.
“That means the gap continues to grow wider and means our funding is stretched to sustain this program, so that’s a big issue in terms of maintaining our financial viability and continuing to provide services to those in need.”
QCOSS member organisation YellowBridge Qld is an independent not-for-profit based in Toowoomba, which helps people access housing, disability support, youth and home services.