Homeless hidden in region’s towns

Tayler NealeAlbany Advertiser

Many cannot comprehend the idea of not knowing where they will sleep tonight, but it is a stark reality for a growing number of people in the Great Southern.

With Homelessness Week running until Sunday, local ambassador Max Fletcher, who spent more than a year homeless in Albany, warns that it can happen to anyone.

The 19-year-old said he was kicked out of home by his mother in January 2015 and spent the next 17 months moving between friends places, even spending two nights sleeping on the streets.

“It can happen to anyone — you can have everything one day and then have nothing the next day,” Mr Fletcher said.

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“I was 16 and living out of a backpack and I’d dropped out of high school due to mental health issues.”

Homelessness Week aims to raise awareness of people experiencing homelessness and the difficulties they encounter.

Albany Youth Association chief executive Rick England said homelessness in regional areas was more hidden than in major cities.

“I guess what people don’t see as much in the regions is rough sleeping so it’s not as visual an issue but that doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s a very significant issue,” he said.

“The numbers fluctuate but there’s been between 70-120 rough sleepers around Albany and they will sleep anywhere from bush to inner city.

“The rest of the homeless population are in severely overcrowded places or couch surfing — so you don’t always see that, it’s the invisible homelessness.”

Mr England said AYSA had noticed an 18.2 per cent increase in young people seeking short-term accommodation.

In terms of solutions, Mr England said more affordable housing and addressing the link between domestic violence and homelessness were critical.

“The feedback is that a huge portion of those people who are couch surfing is related to domestic violence,” he said.

“Our community approach to family domestic violence is extremely limiting and our approach to both victims and perpetrators is under resourced and poorly administered.”

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