PORT Stephens Family and Neighbourhood Services held a breakfast on Wednesday to not only feed some less fortunate people but to draw attention to a growing problem.
The breakfast coincided with Anti-Poverty Week (October 16-22) and was held outside the PFANS drop in centre on Jacaranda Avenue, a well-trafficked Raymond Terrace road.
Luke Styles, 22, lives in a tent on the Hunter River at Raymond Terrace with his partner. He’s brought their 10-week-old pup, Soxxy, down with them for breakfast.
“I woke up excited to get a hamburger for breakfast, you don’t get more Aussie than that,” he said.
“It’s this sort of thing that shows you there are still good people in the community.”
He gratefully grabbed a bun loaded with a paddy and egg, hot off the barbecue, served up by volunteers, some of them from Services NSW who were there on their own time.
Mr Styles came to blows with his step dad five years ago and decided to get out.
He’s now a regular at the drop in centre for food vouchers. They’ve even steered him to Housing NSW to try and place him and his partner into accommodation.
To qualify for accommodation he must produce a diary from inspections on five properties a week. He’s inspected places in Newcastle and Maitland but says it’s hard.
“I have a car but I don’t have a licence,” he said.
“You can only get a bus every hour here unlike Newcastle where they come every five minutes.”
He’s tried to find work too.
“It’s hard to even get your foot in the door,” he said.
“It’s one of those situations where they want you to have experience but they won’t give you a chance in the first place.”
Living rough Mr Styles is highly attuned to his surrounds. What others don’t see he’s acutely aware of.
“When you see the ads of the kids, living on the street at 16, that was me in Raymond Terrace,” he said.
“I’m really worried, because I’ve seen the next lot coming through and I know the troubles they’re facing.”
A person who spends half or more of their income is defined as someone in poverty. PFANS manager Colllen Whittle said the reality is a lot more broad.
“Poverty isn’t just about money, it is about opportunities, or lack thereof for many of our youth in the area, surrounding education, training and employment,” she said.
“There is also a lack of affordable housing options for those struggling financially and we are finding more and more people struggling to pay for daily costs of living after spending a majority of their income just keeping a roof over their heads.”
That has a flow-on effect that hurts children.
“We also see many single parents with children who we believe are at the most risk,” Ms Whittle said.
“This is supported by the NSW Council of Social Service which states that 16 per cent of all children in the Port Stephens are living below the poverty line.
“These statistics are extremely concerning and the hope for our poverty week event is to raise awareness and encourage our community to have a voice when it comes to poverty and addressing social disadvantage in our community.”