The NSW housing minister will "seriously consider" suggestions put forward by Walgett Indigenous organisations to help tackle the area's growing homelessness problem.
After data revealed Walgett is the area with the highest homelessness rate in the state, the Dharriwaa Elders Group and Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service called on the government to provide better social housing and more homelessness shelters in the area.
Speaking to the Daily Liberal, Minister for Housing and Homelessness Rose Jackson said she had noted their suggestions.
"The Dharriwaa Elders Group have raised their concerns but have also, really pleasingly, presented some solutions, some really constructive ideas," she said.
"We will absolutely work with them through those options that we think will be most viable from our end. We're very keen to work with them on that."
According to data compiled by Homelessness NSW, there are 285.6 homeless people for every 10,000 residents in the Walgett council area, compared to just 170 per 10,000 in the City of Sydney.
Minister Jackson said she was not surprised by the data.
"When I visited Walgett earlier in the year ... in the community meeting that we held, housing absolutely came up," she said.
"When we say homelessness we don't just mean rough sleepers. Severe overcrowding is a form of homelessness as well and that's what's often captured."
"There's a job for [the government] to do to make sure people have adequate houses that are kept up to a standard so people are not having to bunk with family and friends, which is causing that overcrowding."
Wiradjuri building designer Samantha Rich - who has been working with the Walgett-based Dharriwaa Elders Group through the Yuwaya Ngarrali partnership with UNSW - says there's a "dire need" for supported accommodation for the homeless in Walgett.
"Those who are homeless are often shipped out of town, or placed in motels where their safety cannot be guaranteed," she said.
"Otherwise, families will generally support and carry the load of housing the homeless which puts pressure on the home situation and also puts pressure on the housing to perform in ways it was not designed for."
"We have seen all this in our work and are designing different caring accommodation solutions so that wellbeing is prioritised for the Walgett Aboriginal community."
The demographics of homelessness in Walgett
Ms Rich is currently working with the Dharriwaa Elders Group to design a cluster of independent living units for elders, who are overrepresented among Walgett's homeless.
The Dharriwaa Elders Group and Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service hope both the federal and state governments will back the project.
They are also asking for construction on the Department of Communities and Justice women's safe house to be resumed, more capital support for community social housing providers and more land to be made available within the levee bank for social housing and supported accommodation.
"The data has been visible for years and years and still no government has had the guts to do what is needed," said Kim Sullivan, from the Dharriwaa Elders Group.
"Resources must be immediately devoted to improving the quantity and quality of social housing and supported accommodation services in Walgett."
While minister Jackson could not make specific promises, she said she was committed to working with the Walgett community and federal government on the issue.
"The previous Commonwealth government wasn't that interested in housing and the previous NSW government didn't prioritise housing in the way it should have been," she said.
"I am optimistic about the fact we have a bit of enthusiasm at both those levels now but we need to turn that enthusiasm into more housing - which is a massive priority of mine."
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