Homelessness isn’t really that complex

Wooden Houses

The Mail is teaming with Mindful Margaret River to share guidance and support from local members of the Mindful Margaret River alliance.

I started working with Just Home Margaret River in 2017, and even with eight years industry background I was always convinced that solving homelessness was ‘complex’.

Now three years in and over 120 community members supported and many more enquiries, I’ve come to realise that the solution to homelessness and housing stress is not complex.

The number one cause of homelessness in Augusta-Margaret River is that housing is too expensive.

The official definition of ‘housing stress’ is people in the lowest 40 per cent of incomes spending more than 30 per cent of their income on housing. More than half of AMR residents do not earn enough money to affordably pay median rental prices.

If you can offer a holiday home as a reasonably priced long-term rental or if you have multiple short-stay properties, we implore you offer the house as a residential rental to someone in need for reasonably priced rent.

Katie Gray Selfie
Katie Gray

What is complex is the direct harm caused by homelessness and housing stress on the body and mind.

We all know food, shelter and safety are needed for physical health, and without these, your mental health will also rapidly diminish.

Anyone who has experienced sleepless nights due to children, emotional distress, work stress or health issues will know how quickly lack of sleep affects your ability to think clearly, to plan, process stress and emotions.

The physical impacts of sleeping rough include back, neck and orthopedic pain, foot and skin infections from damp environments, bites from ants, mosquitoes and other pests.

This combines with limited access to fresh drinking water, difficulties storing and cooking healthy fresh food, ongoing concerns for your safety when sleeping in parks, bush shelters or swags.

What is most frightening for people experiencing homelessness is often not being able to see a solution or end point in sight.

During the COVID lockdown, Just Home directly supported 14 people experiencing homelessness into crisis or long-term accommodation. For most, their mental health and wellbeing improved within just one month.

These people aren’t complex but the harm they are experiencing is. They just needed a safe, affordable space to heal from the stresses of homelessness.

When comparing median income to median rent, housing in Margaret River is as unaffordable as cities like Melbourne. We currently have a severe community-wide shortage in rentals, causing prices to rise even further.

Housing shortages are affecting more and more families, and people who have lived here their entire lives are being forced to leave their community, family and friends, change schools and leave employment to find affordable accommodation.

Although WA feels relatively untouched by COVID, I feel this is a defining point in our society. How we treat the most vulnerable people in times of crisis reflects the kind of people we are.

If you can offer a holiday home as a reasonably priced long-term rental or if you have multiple short-stay accommodation properties, we implore you offer the house as a residential rental to someone in need for reasonably priced rent.

Housing humans is not complex, but the harm that homelessness causes is complex, and can take many years to recover. Let’s work together as a community in the face of current extraordinary events to make sure no one is left behind.

If you would like more information about Just Home Margaret River please visit their website www.justhome.org

If you are currently experiencing homelessness or housing stress call Just Home on 0431150 836. For crisis support, please call Homeless Advisory Service on 1800 065 892

– Katie Gray

Mindful Margaret River is an alliance of mental wellbeing professionals, government agencies, community members and the Augusta Margaret River Shire to promote health and wellbeing. www.mindfulmargaretriver.org.au

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