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In regional South Australia, the detrimental impacts of the pandemic and the ongoing housing affordability crisis have drastically undermined the availability of safe, affordable homes.

Housing advocates and news headlines warn that regional areas of the state face an “unprecedented” homelessness crisis as housing prices skyrocket. Waiting lists for affordable properties are getting longer by the day with demand for housing support in the state’s south-east increasing by 30 per cent in recent months.

Shane Maddock, CEO of ac.care told ABC News that it was “inevitable that we’re going to start to see in our communities people who are clearly not able to find a roof to sleep under during the night.”

The Wyatt Trust believes access to safe, securing housing is a fundamental human right. So much so, that it has been active in the housing space for its entire 135-year history.

“Homelessness is not a new issue to those who don’t have enough to make ends meet,” says Wyatt CEO, Stacey Thomas.

“What is most concerning is that, despite attempted sector reform and targeted efforts by service delivery organisations, we are just not able to reverse this trend. Housing affordability is a systemic issue that requires a multi-pronged, government and community response.”

Since 2006, Wyatt has partnered with housing outreach support organisations across South Australia to provide practical support and accessible ‘housing packages’ that help people re-establish themselves after being homeless.

“Housing outreach supports people in crisis or in other short-term housing, into housing with a more secure tenure,” explains Wyatt Small Grants Lead, Kate Fox.

“When an affordable housing option comes up, there is a big team effort to gather the essentials, often with very little notice.”

Every week, Michelle Storry, Riverland Homelessness Services Program Manager at ac.care sees firsthand the difference this support can make.

“Our service helps clients who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless and can include the many rough sleepers who live along the river,” Michelle explains.

“Our partnership with Wyatt helps our low-income clients who are starting up a home for the first time or starting again. Those initial costs can be very high and they need help with bond, rent and those types of things.”

The support from Wyatt, Michelle explains, goes towards securing essential items that help make a house become a home.

“These are items for their household like a fridge, washing machine, bed or couch,” she says.

“Without Wyatt’s assistance, most of our clients would have to access pay day loan schemes or do rent-to-pay which can snowball into enormous costs where a $500 fridge becomes a $1,500 fridge.”

“With Wyatt’s help, we recently assisted a mother with four children who had escaped domestic violence. She needed bunk beds, mattresses and a couch and she was so grateful for that help.”

ac.care’s focus is on early intervention and prevention services. Its mission is ‘for all country people to have a safe home, enough money to live on and strong, positive relationships’.

“We try to make a difference to everybody,” Michelle says.

“Sometimes there have been examples of clients who have been placed in housing in one area but had to travel great distances to get their medication so extra support was needed to arrange their transport and linking in with other support agencies.”

“We created a role in our service to meet the need for intensive support. This could include transport, mental health appointments or job network agencies,” Michelle explains.

“We as a community here work really well,” she continues. “As a smaller community we will see that person at the shops.”

At the time of the last national Census in 2016, more than 6,200 South Australians were identified as people experiencing homelessness. That figure does not include the thousands more in unsafe or inadequate housing.

“For our clients, it’s simply not possible to live independently on a JobSeeker or Youth allowance,” Michelle says. “Without support they would be set up to fail by going into a property with nothing. This support just gives them that start.”

Read more:

Pandemic prompts housing ‘crisis’ in regional SA

Regional South Australian towns at capacity as city-dwellers leave Adelaide rental squeeze

Lack of affordable housing leaving more people homeless in regional South Australia