Mildura Weekly : Friday August 1 Vol 8 No 39
RIVERLAND 21 FRIDAY, AUGUST 1, 2014 MILDURA WEEKLY.COM.AU HOMELESSNESS doesn’t dis- criminate – it affects men and women, families with chil- dren and single people, young and old, those living in cit- ies and rural areas... and the unemployed, who may have had what they thought was a secure job only months previ- ous. In the past year more than 600 homeless people have been helped by the Salvation Army in the Riverland alone. Sadly, the largest proportion are aged 25 years or younger. Next week is Homeless Persons’ Week, and the Salva- tion Army’s Riverland com- munity support services’ re- gional manager Lyndon Gray is keen to raise awareness of an issue that affects so many. The theme is “We can’t af- ford to ignore it” – and Lyn- don is hoping people will take the time to think about the plight of others, and how they are affected when they become homeless. “The whole aim is to raise the issue in people’s minds because in small areas like the Riverland where you are fairly spread out, it is a more hidden problem,” Lyndon said. “In the Riverland they are doing what we call couch surfing – that is where they sleep on a friend’s couch.” However, many others sleep by the river – in tents, sleeping bags - and cars. “There are a number of people who live on the river,” he said. “Across the board, federal data shows that one in 200 people in Australia are homeless... there are 5985 in SA alone. In the last 12 months the Riverland home- less services have seen just over 600 people.” It is winter and it’s cold – for most people that means keeping inside, warm and dry – especially when they are sleeping. For the homeless who are camping outside – that may not be possible. This week alone, Lyndon has had two clients hospitalised with pneumonia. “Part of the problem this time of the year is that they sleep rough,” he said. “They get wet, they get a cold. That is exacerbated by continuing to sleep outside, and pneumonia follows.” He said people tended to assume that the majority of homeless were older men with drug and alcohol problems, however that stereotype is no longer true. “Homelessness in the Riverland is almost exactly 50/50 male and female ... 42 percent of our clients are actu- ally under 25,” Lyndon said. “Fourteen percent of those who present to us have no income.” However, far more males than females tend to be found sleeping out in the Riverland – about 75 percent. Relation- ship breakdowns – either from a spouse or young peo- ple from their families, or the loss of a job were common precursors to homelessness. “It is a pretty fine line be- tween being employed and in a home,” he said. “They have gone from being in a relation- ship, in houses, lost their job . .. “It could happen that they can’t make mortgage pay- ments, things get on top of them, stress leads to relation- ship issues, so soon they find they are sleeping in their car.” The Salvation Army works with other welfare agencies to tackle the homelessness is- sue in the Riverland, with Life Without Barriers having two staff members who actively seek out those in need – often camping along the river. Life Without Barriers has a kitchen, laundry and shower facilities at its building at 12 Crawford Tce, Berri, which those in need can use. “I think most people these days know someone who has had difficult times, and ends up in a really difficult spot,” Lyndon said. “There is still be- tween a two and five-year wait for the majority of people in public housing. The advantage that we find here is that the cost of rentals is far less than in the city.” About one third of clients are families, who and get pri- ority in what accommodation is available. “That is where most of the housing options are filled,” he said. “That probably makes it harder for us to deal with sin- gles, but at the end of the day nobody wants to see homeless children.” There is no dedicated youth accommodation, and little in the way of affordable single accommodation. Lyndon said 14 percent of the homeless he encountered had got in that situation be- cause of domestic violence – that is despite there being a dedicated domestic violence service in the Riverland – whose numerous clients are not among the more than 600 people assisted by other agen- cies. He said the help people needed could be as little as a phone card in order to let them get in contact with their family, if returning to live with family was an option. One young client, who had not eaten for three days, was recently found trying to find a phone box to phone his parents in West Australia. The young man had hitch-hiked from Darwin to the Riverland looking for work, then ended up without any money for ac- commodation, or to get home. Lyndon said a lot of peo- ple chose to camp close to Berri so that they were within walking distance of shops and services, and closing areas to camping would not remove the problem. “The more we push people out of set places – the harder they will be to find and help,” he said. “If you stop someone camping in one spot – they don’t stop camping out.” The Salvation Army works closely with government agen- cies such as Centrelink and Families SA to assist people, and will be holding an infor- mation expo on Thursday, August 7 in Vaughan Tce from 3pm to 8pm, to help make people aware of what assis- tance is around. “As part of the expo we will have services providing information in regards to homelessness and what sup- ports are available in the re- gion,” he said. “There will be local entertainment. We are also providing soup, rolls and a sausage sizzle. There will be free show bags and balloons, and we are hoping to have the donut van there also.” People needing assistance can contact The Salvation Army on (08) 8582 3182 or Life Without Barriers (08) 8580 5500. Mention homeless people, and many will assume it is a big city problem – something that only happens to drug addicts and alcoholics. But that’s not the case, with more than 600 homeless people helped in the Riverland alone in the past year. Mildura Weekly journalist BEV STORY talks to The Salvation Army’s Lyndon Gray about a problem we can’t ignore. A sad case of no home alone MEMBERS of the Renmark Lions and Lions Ladies Clubs will host a caba- ret at the Renmark Hotel Function room tomorrow night to raise much-needed funds for prostate cancer research. Getting under way from 7pm, the event will feature entertainment by Renmark Lions Club members, mu- sic by local pianist Eric Lord and a dancing dem- onstration by the Riverland Rock and Rollers. A guest speaker will also be on hand to discuss their cancer journey, comple- mented by raffles, a mini- auction and a ‘fashion pa- rade with a difference.’ A number of Riverland- based doctors will also be involved, promising a ‘dif- ferent and fun approach to fund-raising.’ Bookings for the night can be made by phoning the Renmark Hotel on (08) 8586 6755, with cost $20 (includes supper) – pay- able at the door night. More information is available by contacting Graham Edwards on 0412 863 086, or Sandy on 0415 497 083. Blue Renmark for prostate cancer PHONE ORDERS WELCOME (03)5021 2121 The Bulk Butcher Mildura invites all Riverland residents to come and sample our great products & prices. 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