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Homelessness Services Hub: Working with the community to curb homelessness

09/08/2021

Source: QCOSS News

Anglicare North Queensland’s Cairns Homelessness Services Hub is busier than ever.

As the rental crisis in Cairns continues, vacancy rates have fallen below one per cent forcing families to stay in hotels, caravan parks and even tents.

Program Manager at Anglicare’s Homelessness Services Hub, Evan Martin, (pictured above, third from right) says the team has seen a surge in the number of people in need of housing and support services.

“Demand for services has gone through the roof in the past year,” Evan said.

“We’re seeing a lot of people facing varying ranges of support needs, because other places in Queensland have been encouraging people to head to Cairns to find a place to rent"

“But we’re also seeing a lot of locals who are facing homelessness for the first time, including people with full-time jobs who just can’t find housing.”

Evan says he’s proud of how well the Hub adapted at the start of the Covid pandemic, working in two teams from different locations and installing an intercom system to ensure they could continue to deliver essential services while minimising face-to-face contact.

“The intercom system is something that we’ll keep using because it’s been really good for both our clients and staff,” Evan said.

“In the past, the front reception area could be full of people and their kids. Stress levels were high. Now, we can offer them an appointment, we’ll get their number, top up their phone with a Telstra credit, and engage with them in a calmer environment.

“We see a lot of crossover with domestic violence, so we work closely with DV organisations to make those referrals straight away where it’s needed.”

Evan credits the strength of the Homelessness Services Hub with the relationships they have built across the sector – with everyone from domestic violence services, to brokers, real estate agents, and other organisations in the sector.

“We really need to nurture those relationships to support our client group,” Evan said.

“Even for things like damages, we know who we can get to help fix glass, broker damages and smooth things over to prevent tenancy failure. It’s also really important to have good relationships with the real estate agents themselves.”

But Evan says cultivating positive relationships across the sector and government can only get you so far.

“We can’t keep doing more for less, and using band-aid solutions to get by,” Evan said.

“If you want a short term response within this climate, you need to inject more money into brokerage. Not only are we propping up people in short term accommodation, we’re also propping up the community providers of the accommodation, because they’re hurting too.

“During the school holidays, we get pushback because private accommodation suppliers pivot business models to service their normal demand and to create more cash flow. Negotiating a weekly rate during these times becomes very difficult. Homeless people, with no security of tenure, are required to search for alternatives that often don’t exist.

“But it’s this really vicious cycle because we’ve got owners of Backpackers’ hostels that can’t pay their mortgages, and we’re expecting them to run like short term crisis accommodation providers with no extra support.

“We need the government to acknowledge how serious this housing crisis is, and we need enough funding to deliver positive outcomes through our services to those who need it.”

The Anglicare NQ Homelessness Services Hub offers a wide range of housing and support services for people experiencing homelessness or people at imminent risk of homelessness in Cairns. The Hub’s coordinated service delivery provides access to information, referral and advocacy to meet clients’ needs.