CRISIS: Whitsunday Neighbourhood Centre executive officer Rebecca Woods says homelessness is here in the Whitsundays.
CRISIS: Whitsunday Neighbourhood Centre executive officer Rebecca Woods says homelessness is here in the Whitsundays. Shannen McDonald

Homeless: Up to 10 people sleep rough in region each night

A WHITSUNDAY support service worker has warned the risk for homelessness in the region is high with as many as 10 people in any given week considered to be homeless, sleeping rough or couch sleeping.

The issue is further intensified by the limited resources in Whitsundays for addressing homelessness, leaving those who are struggling with little support.

Whitsunday Neighbourhood Centre chief executive officer Rebecca Woods said a driving force behind the homelessness issue was the prominent casual employment in the area, and the number of people living 'hand to mouth' each week.

For many in the Whitsundays, if something unexpected happens, such as a medical bill, car repairs or a change in available work hours, it can very quickly lead households to a state of termoil.

With no plan B or savings or support to fall back on, the prospect of homelessness can become imminent.

"The risk of people becoming homeless in the Whitsundays is high and it is constant,” she said.

"So many are living on a fine edge where if something unexpected happens, things can spiral very quickly.”

Even with many at risk, Mrs Woods admits homelessness continues to go under-recognised in the region.

She said living in seemingly paradise often meant the issue was glazed over by people living in the area, who remain unaware of the homelessness occurring each week.

"A lot of the time, homelessness isn't considered to be an issue in our region,” she said.

"This is largely due to the transient nature of our population and often people sleeping in their cars or sleeping rough can be misunderstood as backpackers or WikiCampers.

"There is also the case when those who are homeless come here, realise there isn't too many resources to help, and will then move on.

"So, people living here don't actually realise that those they are coming across are actually homeless.”

Whitsunday Counselling and Support chief executive officer Wayne Horwood often faces through his line of work, the sad reality of the Whitsundays limited ability to support those who become homeless.

He said it's not because a lack of will or effort, but because the region simply doesn't have the physical assets and appropriate funding to do so.

The Whitsundays has emergency relief resources but the funding for emergency accommodation.

Unless someone fits the criteria for Government housing, there isn't anywhere for them to go or any services for them to access.

"We have limited to no asset resources and that's the big problem,” he said.

"Even with all the collaboration between all the organisations here, there is very little we can provide here for people who are homeless.”

Mr Horwood attended the Integrated Service Delivery Workshop for the Housing and Homelessness Network in Mackay last week which included the Department of Housing and Public Works.

He said discussions were in an interim phase however he remains hopeful for what they could achieve.

"Working together with the Department as well as Mackay and Isaac, I see a way forward for the Whitsundays,” he said.

"There are developments coming but I see a lot of potential for us to get on top of this issue through collaborating with the other regions.”


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