28 June 2023

Grim figures show Eurobodalla's rise in homelessness is one of state's largest

| Claire Sams
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makeshift home in campground

Sobering statistics have highlighted the housing crisis affecting NSW, forcing some working people to live in places such as the North Head campground. Photo: Karyn Starmer.

Recently released statistics have placed Eurobodalla Shire as one of the areas in NSW with the largest increase in people sleeping rough over the past 12 months.

The NSW Statewide Street Count returned in 2023 for its fourth year with its headcount of those experiencing street homelessness at scheduled locations across the state.

Some 1623 people were recorded as sleeping rough in 2023 across NSW, an increase of 34 per cent on the previous year’s result of 1207.

In the Illawarra Shoalhaven, Southern NSW combined area, 173 people were recorded as sleeping rough during the Street Count.

While the statistics showed communities across the state were affected, the Eurobodalla LGA saw the number of people more than double from 24 in 2022 to 59 in 2023.

Meanwhile, 11 people were recorded as sleeping rough in the Queanbeyan Palerang LGA, an increase from its 2022 result of two.

Eurobodalla’s rise saw it ranked as one of the LGAs with the largest total increases in the number of people sleeping rough, compared with 2022 results.

READ ALSO Goulburn’s veranda pantry feeding the homeless and hungry

Eurobodalla Mayor Mathew Hatcher said his shire’s residents were facing several forces as they searched for affordable housing.

“It’s the last thing you want to have going up in your shire,” Mayor Hatcher said.

“I think there’s a lot of contributions to that increase: clearly, the bushfires of 2019/20 played a big role, where we lost 500 houses.

“On top of that, we also had a lot of damaged houses – we often talk about ones that completely burn, but damaged houses also became unusable, in some places, or made people move out so they could be fixed.

“COVID also made it possible for many people to work from home – and many came to their holiday homes.

“People moving here to work from home is fantastic for the local economy, but it changed the landscape of the houses that were available, with a lot of those investors wanting their houses back.”

However, Bega Valley LGA saw one of the largest decreases across the state, with the 26 people counted in 2022 dropping to 12 in 2023.

The Goulburn Mulwaree (one from two), Yass Valley (none from one) and Snowy Monaro (one from four) LGAs also recorded decreases from the 2022 results.

The Hilltops LGA was excluded in the 2023 Street Count, and no person was counted as sleeping rough in 2022 in that area.

READ ALSO How much do you need to earn to afford a home in regional NSW?

Mayor Hatcher said that in an ongoing cost-of-living crisis, housing unaffordability was biting hard.

“Most of the people that we’re finding in this situation [of becoming homeless] are being priced out of the market,” he said.

“A lot of people who are struggling and living in places like North Head campground are not your traditional homeless.

“They’re the working homeless, where people have a job but cannot afford to buy or rent a home.”

NSW Minister for Homelessness Rose Jackson said the statewide increase was worrying.

“It is deeply concerning to see rising numbers of people sleeping rough,” Ms Jackson said.

“We need to do better, we need to drive these numbers down and provide our most vulnerable with access to safe and secure housing.”

Mayor Hatcher said that while there were elements outside one’s control, it was important that governments took what steps they could.

“Little things can fix this problem – but we have to be planning short, medium and long term,” he said.

“The problem’s not going away, so we’ve really got to be looking at it from every angle.”

The 2023 NSW Statewide Street Count, as well as Street Counts from previous years, are available on the New South Wales Government’s website.

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