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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Choosing between food and rent: Support service says more needs to be done for social housing

Deflated and disappointed.

That’s how Nova for Women and Children Chief Executive Kelly Hansen feels about the amount of money allocated towards social housing in Tuesday’s state budget.

“The people who are needing housing is increasing,” she said.

“It’s terrifying, what’s going to happen in April and May next year? With the decrease in Job Seeker and [Job] Keeper, there’s going to be more and more people needing shelter and, if we don’t invest, then I don’t know what services like mine are going to be able to do about that.”

Nova opened its Charlestown premises last month.

Since then, it has had drop-ins every day, and is housing 80 women and children each night.

The budget saw $182.9 million allocated for new social housing, as part of an $812 million spend over four years.

A total of $4 million was allocated to the Charlestown Electorate and $7.1 million was awarded to Wallsend, however, the Newcastle Electorate was left empty-handed.

“Two-and-a-half thousand people are waiting for homes, and they have to wait five to 10 years to get social housing accommodation,” Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said.

“This government and Premier [Gladys Berejiklian] said, when she got elected, that homelessness would be her number one priority, yet we have seen no dollars go into social housing in Newcastle.”

Charlestown MP Jodie Harrison said the money gifted to her electorate won’t be enough to help those suffering.

“That will only provide 10 new, two-bedroom apartments and there’s a shortage of social housing,” she said.

“You think outside the Newcastle CBD and you don’t think there’s homelessness there, but there is, it’s hidden and that’s why it’s so good to have Nova here, it’s given people a place to go to and be safe and get support.

“People are being forced to live in family situations that they shouldn’t be forced to live in.”

Ms Hansen is particularly unhappy, considering the Victorian Government has just announced it will pump $5.3 billion into social housing investment.

“We are being told by women who are applying for properties that there’s up to 50 or 60 people applying – sometimes they’re being asked to offer more rent,” she said.

“That’s women having to choose between food or rent.

“Shouldn’t we be looking after our most vulnerable and shouldn’t the basic simple needs be met like shelter, like food, enough money to live adequately on instead of having to make choices over the basic needs?”