Homelessness could rise in North West Victoria due to cost of living pressures, social service providers warn

Social service providers fear the rising cost of living could push more people into homelessness in Victoria’s North West.

Reserve Bank Governor Phillip Lowe warned last month that inflation was likely to hit 7% by the end of the year.

Fuel, food and education costs have driven prices up across much of the economy, putting immense pressure on low-income families.

Some charities and non-profits expect homelessness to rise in the Mallee and Wimmera over the next six to 12 months, but they assure residents that help is available in the event of a crisis .

Mallee’s accommodation and support program general manager Vincent Wilson said it was too early to have hard data.

“[But] unfortunately, we imagine there will be some unfortunate trends emerging, he said.

Mr Wilson said rising prices could be a barrier to securing secure accommodation.

“Because they’re required to spend more on food, more on fuel…it lessens the likelihood that people will have the funds to get out of this situation – pay bail, for example,” he said.

“It certainly has an impact and limits people’s ability to help themselves if more of their available funds are spent on essentials.”

Bev Miatke is client assessment manager at the Christian Emergency Food Center in Horsham, three hours south of Mildura.

Ms Miatke said she expected demand to start to weigh on supplies and she hoped Horsham residents who grew their own food could help struggling friends and neighbors.

“[If[] you have something to share, share it,” she said.

Ms Miatke says she saw many new faces at the center seeking help.(ABC Wimmera: Alexander Darling)

The center receives food donations from local Horsham bakeries and supermarkets in addition to food bank deliveries.

It also helps people pay for utility bills, prescription drugs, and public transportation to medical appointments.

“We’ve seen quite a few new people coming to the food center recently, and we’re helping people who are hurting… [from] domestic violence,” she said.

“We have fewer days where we’re quite calm, so it’s definitely quite busy right now.

Hundreds on waiting list for housing

The average rental cost for a two-bedroom house in Mildura is around $300 per week.

So someone paying the average rent in Mildura while living on Jobseeker would only have $21 a week left to spend.

This puts renting on the open market out of reach for many.

A car crosses the roundabout at Langtree Ave and Eighth Street in Mildura.
Social services are available for homeless people and victims of domestic violence in Mildura.(Photo: Richard Crabtree)

Latest figures show 971 people were on the waiting list for social housing in Mildura and 539 people on the waiting list for housing in Horsham in March.

Mr Wilson said it could take a long time for those on the list to have a roof over their heads.

“It is particularly difficult to find larger properties for families.

“Unfortunately, the people we would most like to put a secure roof over their heads are sometimes the hardest to find.”

Help is available

However, help is available for people looking for accommodation.

Anyone in the area up to the age of 24 can access housing assistance from the Mallee Housing Support Program by calling 5021 6500 or visiting their office at 118 Pine Avenue.

People 25 and older can find help from homeless service provider Haven; Home, Safe by calling 1300 428 364 or visiting 143A Lime Avenue.

If you, or someone you know, are experiencing domestic or family violence, call The Orange Door on 1800 290 943 or call 000 in an emergency.

Sunraysia Community Health Services provides drug and alcohol addiction support at 5022 5444.

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