Image: Mayor Amanda Findley, Peter Dover, CEO Salt Ministries and Lesley Labka, Operations Manager at Supported Accommodation & Homelessness Services Shoalhaven Illawarra.
As the impact of housing shortages and increasing costs continues to compound in the Shoalhaven, Council has launched a year-long campaign to support community services help those in need.
Mayor Amanda Findley was joined by local service providers to launch the Year to Thrive Together campaign in Nowra.
“We know that people are doing it tough for a lot of reasons. Many are hardworking people who have just had a run of bad luck and need some help to turn things around,” said Cr Findley.
“There’s a lot we can do as a community to turn the lives of so many residents around and make sure everyone in our city has the opportunity to thrive,” she said.
At the end of last year, a number of rental property owners responded to Council’s call to consider providing accommodation to people in need of housing and contacted the service providers directly to offer their assistance.
Recent ABS Census data shows 6,251 households in the Shoalhaven are paying more than 30% of their income on housing, affecting 42.3% of rental households and 16.2% of mortgage households.
“I understand that the current financial climate is putting pressure on everyone, so ask that people consider how they’d like to support this campaign during the year – whether it be a $10 or $100 donation or providing goods for a care pack – it can all make a big difference in someone’s life.”
The campaign will include the annual Thrive Together Fair donations drive for care packs, service and business support as well as other opportunities to support.
During the next eight weeks, people are invited to donate to the Mayor’s Relief Fund to raise money to be distributed to local service providers to help pay for food, utility and vehicle related bills and accessing temporary or emergency accommodation.
The Homelessness Taskforce will also consider ways the funds could be used to help ease homelessness.
Lesley Labka, Operations Manager at Supported Accommodation & Homelessness Services Shoalhaven Illawarra said they have already reached their annual funding target having seen over 934 men, women and children in just six months.
“It’s clear that everyone is feeling the pinch of cost of living especially older residents. We’re seeing elderly people who have been able to afford their rent for years and years, suddenly faced with being homeless when they receive a notice of termination and they have 90 days to find another place to live. They cannot afford the current rental market prices especially when they are on a fixed wage or are unable to work. We must do more to help people in need,” Ms Labka said.
Peter Dover, CEO of Salt Ministeries said that since October last year the shelter has been at capacity with a dozen guests staying each night.
“We also provide housing with 38 properties and these too are completely full. Every day we get calls for assistance from people and we cannot keep up with the demand. Cost of living has gone through the roof. Since September last year the number of people reaching out for food and groceries increased by 55%, that’s over 1,000 families on a regular basis asking for food just to survive day to day,” Mr Dover said.
Maria Mitchell, Manager of the Ulladulla and Districts Community Resources Centre has seen a significant increase of people experiencing homelessness in recent years.
“Every day we are hearing more stories of people struggling to pay energy bills, buy food and resorting to sleeping in their cars,” Ms Mitchell said.
“Community donations are essential to helping organisations such as the Ulladulla District Community. We look forward to applying for funding through the Mayors Relief Fund, it would be our hope that we can purchase more swags, tents and sleeping bags,” Ms Mitchell said.
Judith Walker, President of St Vincent de Paul Society branch in Nowra said their organisation has been overwhelmed with requests for assistance over the past month.
“We generally help over 40 people from the Nowra and Bomaderry areas each week. Due to the closure of welfare agencies over the Christmas and new year period we have been inundated with requests for food, clothing vouchers, petrol vouchers and swags, sleeping bags for those experiencing homelessness,” Ms Walker said.
The Year to Thrive Together Campaign includes:
- Mayor’s Relief Fundraising (30 Jan – 31 March): Donations through Give Now platform.
- Donations drive for care packs (June): During the colder months Council will call for donations of new non-perishable food, toiletries, blankets, sanitary products, baby supplies, toys and books as well as vouchers to make up care packs which will be given out at the Thrive Together Fair.
- Thrive Together Fair (August): The Thrive Together Fair helps the community connect and access critical support services such as legal services, health checks, laundrette and housing support. The Fair which has been well-attended in previous years and coincides with Homelessness Week.
- Property Owner Accommodation Call Out (September-October).
- Mayor’s Giving Box (December): A call for gifts and donations to give to those in need during the festive season.