Homelessness in Murray Bridge: 500 people affected in 2016-17, says AC Care

File photo.

File photo.

More than 500 residents of the Murray Bridge district have been homeless or close to it in the past year, according to non-profit organisation AC Care.

Most of those who sought help were in “inadequate or inappropriate” housing: unable to pay rent, living in places too small or unsafe for their families, or facing eviction as owners sought to move in or sell up.

About 75 people were sleeping rough, and another 160 were staying on someone’s couch.

Young people and Aboriginal people were disproportionately affected.

But just as concerning to service manager Trish Sparks was the overlap between people at risk of homelessness and people with mental health issues, who made up about 40 per cent of the total.

"Any mental health supports in the Murraylands are really good, but we just don't have enough," she said.

"People can get more mental illnesses from being homeless, or if they have a mental illness, being homeless can make things worse.

"We need more mental health support workers for people who ... need occasional support or someone to talk to.

"But we also need mental health-type accommodation ... where there's 24-hour support."

The impression she had was that clients in Murray Bridge were expected to seek help in Adelaide, but that was not always practical, she said.

More accessible mental health services could intervene in people's lives before things reached crisis point.

In their absence, she said, it was important for government, service providers, schools and businesses to work together to make sure everyone had somewhere to live.

Housing affordability was also a major problem even in Murray Bridge, where the median rental price was $220 per week at the last census.

Youth Allowance and Newstart recipients – on receive $218 and $244 per week, respectively – could not afford to live on their own, said AC Care chief executive officer Shane Maddocks.

He called for both payments to be increased, and for governments to spend more on social housing.

"When people are doing it tough they need hope that they can escape poverty, have a safe, affordable place to live and believe their situation is temporary," he said.

"We do not want a society where parts of our community have a sense of hopelessness because things outside of their control prevent them from moving out of poverty.

"It cannot be left only to the free market to provide affordable housing."

  • Get help: Phone 8532 6303 or visit 11-21 Kennett Road, Murray Bridge East between 9am and 5pm weekdays.
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