Lack of jobs at core of couch surfing

Saskia AdystiGreat Southern Herald

Anglicare chief executive Ian Carter says poverty and homelessness are the two major issues in Katanning although they are mainly hidden away from the public’s eyes.

“Homelessness in metropolitan areas is more evident, you actually see people sleeping rough on the street,” he said.

“Because of the nature of small regional communities, homeless people in Katanning find themselves couch surfing at friends’ or a relative’s house as a means to survive.

“Some people even go out bush at free camping areas.”

The high poverty level in Katanning exists because of the lack of job opportunities in town.

Many young people in the region are also relying on Youth Allowance or Newstart because of the lack of employment in the area.

Cultural issues are another social problem in Katanning because it appears to be more difficult for the indigenous community to find affordable rent or employment.

“Once the landlord knows you’re an indigenous person then it’s always harder to get a lease,” Mr Carter said.

But housing stress is still the most common issue in the region because many people struggle to pay the rent and utilities bill.

“A lot of our clients are spending more than 50 per cent of their income on housing, and in some of our worst cases, they’re paying 70 to 90 per cent of their disposable income just to have a house,” Mr Carter said.

“That leads them almost nothing to pay bills and pay food.”

According to Anglicare’s recent report, there was only a small amount of affordable accommo-dation in the Great Southern for singles on the Newstart allowance.

Katanning Anglicare financial counsellor Bob Matthews said it would take more than welfare payments for people to get out of housing stress and poverty cycle.

“I see quite a few people being able to live on Newstart, but if something goes wrong or a bill comes in, then they go back living on couches again,” he said.

“If the Government really want to help, then there needs to be more public housing or State housing stock put into regional towns like Katanning,” Mr Carter said.

Although the number of affordable houses in the Great Southern region rose in 2017, Mr Carter said the Government still needed to make more public housing and transitional housing available for the region.

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