Homeless in the Murraylands: more than 400 seek help in 2017-18

Photo: File.
Photo: File.

The stigma attached to homelessness is fading, leading more people to seek help, says the manager of the Murraylands Homelessness Service.

Thanuja Hiripitiyage said 414 people had sought the service's help in 2017-18.

"I think Murray Bridge has come a long way in accepting homelessness is a part of the life a person could experience," she said.

"It's not necessarily their entire lifetime, it's just one stage.

"The more people feel comfortable coming forward, (the better) we can be as a community."

Two thirds of the service's clients across the Murraylands and Adelaide Hills were living in inadequate housing; many of the rest had been evicted.

More than 40 per cent were dealing with mental health issues, and more than 90pc were under the age of 35: young adults, parents and children.

But Ms Hiripitiyage said there was no single reason people in that age bracket were more likely to grapple with homelessness.

"Sometimes it could vary from the lack of education young people are getting, employment opportunities, sometimes the family dynamics are not the best for the young person," she said.

"It's a variety of reasons and vulnerabilities."

She did not expect there was any hidden epidemic of homelessness among older people.

"The more they become older, they become more ... I don't want to use the word 'street smart', but they've lived that life for some time, they know the people (from whom) they can seek support," she said.

AC Care chief executive officer Shane Maddocks said the problem was a systemic one: a lack of affordable housing, compounded by poverty, family violence, mental health problems and relationship breakdowns.

He encouraged people to help by helping people experiencing homelessness stay engaged with sport, providing work experience, volunteering, becoming a foster carer or respite carer, or lowering the rent on properties they owned.

AC Care homelessness services manager Trish Spark said the lack of mental health services in Australian communities was also a problem.

The Murraylands Homelessness Service helps clients find accommodation, negotiate with landlords, improve their parenting skills and make medical apppointments; and offers laundry and shower facilities, meals and transport as well as advice on financial management, education, employment, relationships and more.

  • Seek help: Call 1800 003 308 or visit AC Care at 11-21 Kennett Road, Murray Bridge East.

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