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Homeless numbers increasing in NSW -

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Homeless numbers increasing in NSW

Reporter: Brigid Glanville

PETER CAVE: The global financial crisis continues to bite with a rising number of families being
forced out of their homes.

The St Vincent de Paul Society says in some of its centres, inquiries for housing have increased
six-fold.

The hardest hit areas are the western suburbs of Sydney, but nationally other states have also
noticed a rise in people looking for housing.

Brigid Glanville reports.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Emerton near Mount Druitt in western Sydney is an area where residents face
hardship on a daily basis.

There are many welfare dependant families who at times struggle to find affordable housing.

But now many families on low incomes are also finding it hard to pay rent, and are being forced out
of their homes.

Dr Andy Marks is the senior researcher for the St Vincent de Paul Society.

ANDY MARKS: Most of the people in Emerton are really struggling. It's an average household income
there of around $700, compared to over $1,000 nationally on average. So we're already talking about
people that who are up against it.

It's minimum wage earners typically. There's a higher proponent of people there on welfare.

What we've seen now is an increase, as I said, in the number of working families - for want of a
better term - that are approaching us for assistance.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Dr Marks says at Emerton in western Sydney, the number of people looking for
housing through St Vincent de Paul has risen from 110 to 679 people in the past year.

ANDY MARKS: In most cases it's renters, and when we have rental vacancy rates out west of less than
three per cent, there just isn't the level of supply to keep up with them. So it's forcing prices
up as well.

We do see some mortgage holders as well. What's very worrying for us, as well as the number of
people that are getting themselves into mortgages at the moment, where interest rates are at record
lows.

And should they creep up a margin as is expected in the recovery, we do expect another spike in
demand there.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: The New South Wales Department of Housing says it's not just a problem in western
Sydney.

Every month on average there are an extra 643 people looking for somewhere to live.

David Borger is the NSW Housing Minister.

DAVID BORGER: Each week we provide temporary accommodation to people who have lost their home,
who'd have nowhere to live. And most of those people have been people who obviously have a lot of
complex needs in their lives; some people are chronically homeless.

But what we're seeing increasingly is two things. Firstly, more people are coming through - 643 a
month, compared to the previous year - can't get their accommodation needs met in the private
system.

But secondly, we're seeing more people who are, in a sense, economic refugees - that have lost
their job, who may have lost their house, and they need somewhere to stay very urgently.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: The Wesley Mission is another charity noticing the rise in homelessness.

It says it is turning away families every week who are desperate for short-term accommodation.

New South Wales is the hardest hit, but Federal Housing Minister Tanya Plibersek says all states
have noticed a rise.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Right across Australia we saw an increase in homelessness amongst families with
children between the 2001 and 2006 census.

Since the 2006 census we anecdotally, that renters in particular are vulnerable to homelessness if
they lose their jobs. Rents are very high and growing very quickly.

For people who own their own homes, the news has actually been good, because they're paying a
smaller proportion of their household income on mortgage repayments. But renters are still under a
lot of stress right across Australia.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Last year the Federal Government released its white paper on homelessness in
Australia.

The Federal Government says it's committed to increasing the amount of public housing. The first
150 of 9,000 houses pledged to be built have just been constructed in New South Wales.

The Federal Housing Minister Tanya Plibersek:

TANYA PLIBERSEK: There's an unprecedented amount of activity in building new housing, but also in
improving homelessness supports. So, as well as the 9,000 new public housing dwellings that will be
built in New South Wales, we're also improving services.

We're providing particular support to homeless children that has never been provided before; 1000
extra adults with a mental illness will have an personal support worker.

I mean, these investments are unprecedented in Australia's history.

PETER CAVE: The Federal Housing Minister Tanya Plibersek ending Brigid Glanville's report.