Bucketts Way Neighbourhood Group has four months left of emergency relief funding

Awareness: Bucketts Way Neighbourhood Group's Jeannette Mumford, Kim Wiesner, Amy Dillon and Mel Lightfoot spoke about homelessness in Gloucester last week. Photo: Rob Douglas.
Awareness: Bucketts Way Neighbourhood Group's Jeannette Mumford, Kim Wiesner, Amy Dillon and Mel Lightfoot spoke about homelessness in Gloucester last week. Photo: Rob Douglas.

It's suppose to be the most wonderful time of the year but for Bucketts Way Neighbourhood Group, Christmas will be anything but in 2019.

The agency revealed just four months of emergency relief funding is available before it becomes no longer available.

They were unsuccessful in their application for continued funding into 2020 and beyond and now face a battle to reverse the decision.

Bucketts Way Neighbourhood Group emergency relief coordinator Kim Wiesner said the funding will be redirected to Taree, meaning those in need in Gloucester will have to travel more than one hour to there to receive assistance.

"Once we get to Christmas, that's it, it's gone," Kim said.

"It's the only funding we have here.

"How can we expect these people to get over to Taree, but they'll have no other way to get that service."

To put the need for funding into perspective, in the last financial year the group handed out food hampers, pharmaceuticals, petrol cards, other crisis assistance and meals through the community kitchen to 765 residents in the Gloucester area.

They won't go down without a fight. Kim was joined by Amy Dillon, Jeannette Mumford and Mel Lightfoot on the streets of Gloucester last week to circulated a petition to save the funding and raise awareness about homelessness.

At the time, they had more than 460 signatures.

"We'll keep the petition up until the very last day," Amy said.

Kim also put forward a notice to the House of Representatives about the petition in hope the funding would be reinstated.

In light of Homelessness Week, Amy said the Gloucester area is not exempt from the issue.

"This is a real problem here in Gloucester, a lot of people in all sorts of strife," Amy said.

Looking at rental options in town, Amy said there were 10 houses available at an average cost of $300 per week.

"A single person on Newstart wouldn't be able to afford it," Amy said.

Kim stressed it's not just people living under bridges and in parks that require emergency relief.

"We also look at people who are couch hopping, don't have safe security or a place to call home," Kim said.

"But we also have people in Gloucester who sleep in cars, near the railway, under bridges, abandoned houses and in parks."

In her study as a social worker through University of New England, Mel linked up with the group to see all the issues faced by the most vulnerable in the community.

She said the awareness campaign is a reminder to locals about the stereotypes and stigmas associated with homelessness.

"Homelessness can create things like mental health issues and a flow-on effect from that," Mel said.

"There's a common misconception that if you're homeless, you must be a drug addict.

"That's not the case."

According to Homelessness Australia, one in 200 people are homeless on any given night in Australia. This equates to about 105,000 people.

Of these are more than 17,800 children under 10, with about 400 sleeping outside.

Woman aged 55 and up are at the highest risk to homelessness. Men make up the slight majority of homeless people (56 per cent).

Factors that cause homelessness include shortage of affordable and available rental housing, domestic and family violence, intergenerational poverty, financial crisis, long term unemployment, economic and social exclusion, mental illness, psychological distress, exiting state care, exiting prison and a severe housing crisis.

The Northern Territory has a rate of 730 per 10,000 people homeless. This is substantially higher than any other state or territory. Queensland, Western Australia and ACT have slightly higher rates of homelessness than other states.