Highlighting the Fleurieu’s homelessSPECIAL REPORT

Homelessness in the Fleurieu is prevalent and a stripping back of financial supportis hurting those who are in a position to help. Pictured are Junction Australia’s Jessica Stevens and South Coast Christian Community Care’s Lew Saunders.Not having a place to call homeis real for dozens of people on the FleurieuPeninsula. Last week, The Times faced its ownsituation where a young woman travelledfrom Adelaide to Victor Harbor and beggedone of the staff members she barely knew fora place to stay. The woman was referred to alocal crisis service to give her shelter for thenight.

One local support group knows of about 30people who are currently homeless on theFleurieu. Another agency said it has seenmore than 270 people in nine months whowere all in need of help.

According to the Australian Bureau ofStatistics, homelessness is when someonedoes not have suitable accommodation andtheir current living arrangement:

Is in an inadequate property; orIs not ‘real’, or their short tenure can’t beextended; orDoes not allow them to have control ofand use the space for social activities.It says a home may have a sense of security,stability, privacy, safety, and the ability tocontrol living space. It specifically notes thatnot having a roof over one’s head is not thesame as being homeless.

Member for Finniss Michael Pengilly madecomment in parliament last week about theseeming increase of people who werehomeless walking around his electorate’sstreets.

He made allegations that governmentagencies – namely Families SA – are sendingtheir clients to Finniss. Local groups have saida number of people who come to them forhelp have been referred from Families SA andother government agencies.

But, when contacted by The Times, aFamilies SA – Department for Education andChild Development (DECD) – spokesmansaid the agency is only responsible for childprotection, which includes placing fosterchildren with carers.

Child safety deputy chief executive EtienneScheepers also spoke, stating that Families SAalways takes into account access to necessaryservices when placing children with foster orkinship carers.

He said he is happy to meet with MrPengilly to discuss issues raised by hisconstituents. The Families SA spokesman saidthe issue of finding housing for adults,families and victims of homelessness is underHousing SA – the Department of Communitiesand Social Inclusion (DCSI) – jurisdiction.

A Housing SA spokesperson told The Times that it funds service providers to provide supported accommodation for your people, families, single adults and peopleexperiencingdomestic violence.

However The Times’ questions – which remainunanswered by any government department -included which department would beresponsible for searching for accommodationin the Fleurieu for homeless people; whetherthe government is aware of any other agenciessending homeless people to the Fleurieu tolook for cheaper accommodation thanmetropolitan South Australia; whether thegovernment is aware of the increasingamounts of people utilising local, non-governmenthomelessness services; andwhether the government has plans to allocateany further services or funding to the region.


Fleurieu Homelessness Support Service:8555 3277.Need to escape domestic violence?1800 003 308South Coast Christian Community Care:8552 6007Victor Harbor Salvation Army:8552 7474A number of supportgroups were spoken to by The Timesabout who comes to them for help.

Lew Saunders is chairman for SouthCoast Christian Community Care(SCCCC), a collaborative of about adozen churches between Victor Harborand Goolwa.

The organisation aims to help peoplein the south coast by providing foodparcels, fuel assistance, furniture,emergency accommodation andpayment assistance for power bills.

Mr Saunders said he is aware ofabout 30 people who are homelessbetween Yankalilla and Strathalbyn.

He said besides being on the streets,homeless people may be couch surfing,sleeping in cars or moving from house-to-house in share situations.

Junction Australia’s FleurieuHomelessness Support Serviceprovides temporary help to familiesand people who are homeless or are atrisk of homelessness across theYankalilla, Victor Harbor andAlexandrina council regions.

This may involve helping people getemergency accommodation andsupporting them to access privaterental accommodation. It also helpslocal people connect with otherservices that can help with other needs.

It aims to break the cycle ofhomelessness.

The service supported 275 peopleincluding men, women and children,between July 1, 2014 and March 31,2015.

Victor Harbor Salvation Armyprovides emergency relief to peoplethrough food and material assistance,for example supplying blankets andclothing, plus fuel assistance, phonebills, and limited furniture supply andemergency accommodation. It alsogives referrals to financial counselling,mental health and relationshipcounselling and has a positive lifestyleprogram.

What the service groupsseeOn the first two days of July, SCCCC had to findemergency accommodation for fourpeople who all went, or were referred,to the organisation for help.

This involved checking them intoone local business which – at adiscounted rate – provided theindividuals with a place to stay,breakfast and dinner.

Mr Saunders and Ms Hart said thereare no specific demographics of peoplewho seek help.

“Poverty does not discriminate. Itdoes not target a particular group. Itdoesn’t care about race, age, gender orsexuality,” Ms Hart said.

Junction Australia said 153 peoplewho sought help from its organisationbetween July 1 last year and March 31this year were female, and 79 wereunder 18 years of age.

The groups cited job losses,problems keeping up with rent orgetting an affordable place to live,relationship break-ups and servicesystem failure as among the situationspeople found themselves in when theybecome homeless.

Mr Saunders said many morefamilies visited SCCCC in search ofhelp after Family Tax Benefit B – asupport payment to eligible families -was tightened in the 2014/15 federalbudget so it stopped being given afterthe youngest child in a family turnedsix.

Mr Saunders said from that age,children’s needs increase in cost, forexample school books and uniform,everyday clothes and extra curricularactivities.

“They (the costs) put so muchpressure on the family unit,” he said.

Ms Hart said one of the mostcommon reasons the Salvos comesacross is simply due to the cost ofhousing.

“For many on Centrelink payments,once the rent is taken out they are leftwith very little to live on,” she said.

“Throw in a couple of unexpectedexpenses and rent becomes impossibleto cover.

“Whatever the case, we tend to lookbeyond the presenting issue and realisethat there is always an underlying issuethat has led to homelessness -everybody has a story.”

Where are the homelesscoming from?Member for Finniss MichaelPengilly said a number of governmentagencies were directing their clients tohis electorate.

Ms Hart said people can go directlyto the Salvos, but a number of peopleare referred from Families SA andCentrelink.

Mr Saunders confirmed thatgovernment agencies had beendirecting some of its clients to thesouth coast for emergency short termaccommodation, for example a southcoast caravan park.

But once those bookings finish, theclients are often left to fend forthemselves. If they can’t get out of thattight spot, Mr Saunders said that’swhen they end up at SCCCC. He said sending them to the southcoast for support – as lovely as thelifestyle is – is not feasible because ofthe lack of basic support services, suchas public transport and walk-in agencysupport offices.

Ms Stevens said clients are referredon through its agencies.

Mr Saunders said the homelessnesssituation puts pressure on other people.These include doctors who try to assesspeople that end up in emergency afterbusiness hours and don’t have anymedical records or a contact person,and schools who are suddenly forcedto look after children who don’t haveclean clothes.

Mr Saunders said some peoplechoose to move to the district, but don’trealise it’s not as liveable as theythought. In turn, their situationsworsen.

“They love the lifestyle, they lovethe coast, but we don’t have thesupport mechanisms,” he said.

“Doctors services are stretched,schools are stretched, fuel prices don’tdiscount and the price of food is goingup.

“It’s a vicious circle once you lookat it.”

What funding isavailable?All three groups interviewed saidthey receive help from communitydonations. SCCCC is solely reliant oncommunity donations, after it lostfederal funding for its emergency reliefprogram.

“We’re not sure how we’ll survive orkeep up,” Mr Saunders said.

“Our future is uncertain but wecontinue to work with other agenciesacross the south coast to ensure theneeds of locals are met to the best ofour ability,” he said.

Mr Saunders said a dedicated short-termstay building would be of greatbenefit. Regional DevelopmentAustralia has been unsuccessful in itsthree bids to the federal government inthe past five years to help build a 35-unit short term stay complex in VictorHarbor. The local group seeks $2.1million to make this happen.

Mr Saunders said an overnightaccommodation spot would help keeppeople warm and safe overnight, whileSCCCC could then work with agenciesto get people back on their feet duringthe day.

Ms Hart said the Salvos rely heavilyon community donations to helpdeliver its costs. Fundraising initiativesincluding the Red Shield Appeal andANZ’s winter and Christmascollections also help. Local hotels andcaravan parks help withaccommodation.

Ms Hart said it’s getting harder tohelp people as cost of living tax breaksand support funding for servicesdwindle.

“With SCCCC’s future beinguncertain, the situation is only going toget worse,” she said.

“The agencies in the area need to doall they can to work together and thereliance on community support isgoing to increase.

“We are so fortunate to live in anincredibly generous community.”

Junction Australia receives fundingthrough the state government andreceives community support throughseveral means, including through alocal school, service clubs and theFleurieu Community Foundation’shomelessness fund.

Mr Saunders said homelessness canbe addressed by the public being morecompassionate to those in need andcontinue donating to support agencies,and governments need to keep helpingservice providers.

He said if you know or encountersomeone who is homeless or at risk ofhomelessness, approach them withempathy and try to help.

“Find out what that person’ssituation is and assess their real needs -this might be food, a safe place to stay,financial assistance to get to the city, orthe need to make a phone call tocontact someone,” he said.

“From there, use your judgement tobest guide or refer them to a service.”

Mr Saunders said while you canassist, you should not get involved in aperson’s situation, as your personalsafety come first.

​ Victor Harbor Salvation Army’s Amanda Hart (second from right) said the public’s support is a huge help in her organisation’s work to support those in need. She is pictured ahead of the recent ‘Salvos Sleep Out’ with City of Victor Harbor mayor Graham Philp, Nina the dog, Karen O’Neill and Donna Luscombe.

Renting a propertyon the Fleurieu is out of reach forsome people living on theFleurieu, which local groups sayis affecting the homelessnesssituation.

South Coast ChristianCommunity Care’s Lew Saunderssaid the reasons for a lack ofhousing included nobody wantingto take the risk with some tenantsand Housing SA lacks stock on thesouth coast.

Mr Saunders said 35 per cent ofhouses in Victor Harbor areholiday properties sitting idle, asowners are not willing to take therisk of renting them out for short-termstays or open them up forshare house arrangement.

He said there are affordableproperties available, but poorrental history or known problemsin the past with some candidatesmean they don’t get an offer, evenif they can financially afford them.

As such, they may end uphomeless.

Mr Saunders said there is also abidding war with tenants, wherepeople willing to pay the most fora property will win the contract.

This drives up the value ofproperty on the market and thenumber of affordable availablehouses shrink.

Mr Saunders said if people werewilling to open their houses toshare agreements, that would helpthe homelessness situation.

Amanda Hart of Victor HarborSalvation Army said it becomesevident to her how many houseson the Fleurieu are sitting vacantduring door knocking for the RedShield Appeal.

“Every year I find myselfquestioning the situation,” shesaid.

“We have so many peoplesleeping rough and yet so manyhouses sitting empty – it justdoesn’t seem right.

“Ultimately though it is up tothe owners of the properties toallow something to happen.

“People aren’t prepared to takea risk on allowing their property tobe used for emergencyaccommodation. I’ve worked incommunities where even thethought of emergencyaccommodation in the area hassent neighbours into a spin.

“The fact that more money canbe gained from having an emptyhouse with solar panels thantenants could play a part too.

“What housing would be aviable option if we had theresources? There is a great needfor something along these lines inour area.

Junction Australia’s JessStevens said Junction Australia iscommitted to increasing thesupply of affordable housing inSouth Australia.

“We recognise that access tolong term housing options iscritical to social and economicparticipation,” she said.

Junction Australia manages 61properties in the FleurieuPeninsula, through its registeredcommunity housing providerJunction and Women’s HousingLtd. Ms Stevens said the grouprecently opened a Goolwa officeand local staff are supported byour extended team based inAdelaide. Junction AustraliaHousing Services may becontacted on 8210 7000.

Real Estate Institute of SouthAustralia chief executive officerGreg Troughton said a number ofproperties in the Fleurieu arelifestyle homes. As such, landlordswith these types of houses wouldbe very protective of them.

Mr Troughton said landlordinsurance policies may need tochange if properties were used forshare house arrangements.

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