We can all do more to prevent homelessness

May 30, 2018

Imagine not knowing where you might sleep tonight, or having to ‘couch surf’ just to keep a roof over your head.

What do you do if there’s no couch available?

That is the unfortunate reality for at least 10 people seeking assistance from the St Vincent de Paul Society in Deniliquin, and there may be more who have not reached out for help.

The problem of homelessness is not limited to metropolitan centres.

In communities like ours it is a hidden problem, because we don’t have the visual cues of seeing people sleeping rough on the streets like city-dwellers.

The sheer number of local people requiring assistance from charities like St Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army due to the rising cost of living is sobering to hear.

That St Vincent de Paul helps at least 10 people each month who are officially classified as homeless is heartbreaking.

Even more devastating is the prediction from charity volunteers like Daphne Greaves who say the problem is only going to increase until something is done to ease cost of living expenses.

An increasing number of people will struggle to pay their heating costs, pay rent and feed their families as winter sets in.

The reality is that we’re unlikely to see a reduction in rent, electricity or other living expenses — try as we might.

The long-term solution to the problem is hard to pinpoint, but in the short-term governments need to acknowledge there is an issue and step up to help.

Perhaps instead of offering tax cuts we should concentrate on providing increases to welfare payments like Newstart that better reflect the 2018 realities associated with the cost of living.

Arguments that $40 a day for job seekers is reasonable are disputed when you realise more than half of it would be spent on rent alone.

There must also be more funding from government to fund support programs for those at risk of homelessness — let’s address the issue before it’s too late.

Deniliquin and district residents have an opportunity to demonstrate their social conscience on this very real local issue when Vinnies Services hosts its own local version of the CEO Sleepout fundraiser next month.

Those interested in helping to limit the grip of homelessness or financial disadvantage in our local community are asked to donate to the cause, or better still sign up to spend one night in the shoes of a homeless person and sleep on the street.

In the meantime, if you are experiencing or at risk of homelessness or need support, contact Vinnies Services on 58817411 or visit their office at 74 Wellington St, Deniliquin.

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