Services facing crisis as homeless numbers grow

"THE HOMELESSNESS situation in Dubbo is in crisis", a Dubbo man has said.

Sturt House, which accommodates up to 11 single adults over the age of 18, has recently been packed to the rafters, with up to two phone calls a day for referrals.

The team at Sturt House at West Dubbo often get referrals from the NSW Department of Housing, on people they need to desperately relocate.

"I often have to refer people to other services who can then help them find suitable accommodation," manager Peter Gallagher said.

"Most of our residents solely rely on Centrelink for their income so we help them find public housing through either Housing NSW or a local real estate agency."

At Sturt House, there are only three single rooms and the rest are shared. The service is linked with other organisations such as the Richmond Fellowship, Centacare and Mission Australia in order to assist residents with their living arrangements.

Reasons surrounding a person's need for emergency accommodation range from domestic problems to relationship breakdowns.

Some are couch surfing, setting up camp on the banks of the Macquarie River or sleeping under the LH Ford bridge.

Although he has only been at Sturt House for a couple of months, Mr Gallagher admitted he was surprised at how severe the homeless situation was in Dubbo.

"I can assure you that we are doing everything we can to help those people in need, but unfortunately we're just a drop in the ocean."

Mr Gallagher, who once lived in mining town Gunnedah, said he believed the mining boom on its way to Dubbo could make it hard for troubled people in need of a home.

"People are already investing in the housing market in Dubbo. There's speculation that the real estate will push house prices up, making it harder for the situation to improve," he said.

He said the NSW government was aiding the situation, but there was still room for improvement.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics' (ABS) 2012 Census of Population and Housing: Estimating Homelessness found 28,190 people were homeless in NSW in 2011, up from 22, 219 people in 2006. Most of the increase in homelessness between 2006 and 2011 resulted from the rise in the number of people living in severely crowded dwellings.

A statement from the ABS read that most homeless people in Australia were not sleeping rough or in improvised dwellings.

anthony.cini@ruralpress.com

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