What you can do to support around 3 million Australians living below the poverty line

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Port Stephens Examiner

Charlie Elias

With the latest data revealing around 3 million Australians living below the poverty line, there’s a responsibility on all Port Stephens residents to throw their support behind community groups to help ease the economic and social pressures which often lead to homelessness.

This was the message from many of the Port Stephens community groups during National Anti-Poverty Week (October 13-19), which was established to provide an increased understanding of poverty and to take action collectively to end it.

One of those groups working to create a safe place for those struggling with problems that go hand in hand with poverty – such as homelessness, mental health issues, domestic violence and rising house rentals – is the Nelson Bay-based Yacaaba Centre.

Ms Offen said that while support for families of domestic violence remained a priority for the Yacaaba Centre, its services had spread to include counselling in mental health, disability and sexual assault issues, financial hardship, grief and loss, legal aid and justice.

“We have a food pantry available and with the support of the Salamander Bay Recycling and Men’s Shed groups we are hoping to have furniture items in stock for emergency relief.”

Other organisations on the Tomaree peninsula to offer food parcels or vouchers include the Salvation Army family store in Salamander Bay, Hope Cottage at All Saints church, Gan Gan Family Centre at Anna Bay and Rock Church (on Salamander Way).

“We are fortunate here to have such wonderful community support through volunteer work, donations and fundraising events. But of course we can do with more support. Homelessness here in the Bay is a growing problem,” Ms Ofeen said.

“Being on the frontline of services, we see the problem growing by the week and it is my intention to have as many service providers working together to provide a holistic solution. We are already working more collaboratively with the food packages, another area of need is transport.”

Port Stephens Salvation Army envoy Howard Koutnik agreed that the issue of poverty and homelessness had become a society wide problem and “the more people we can get on board with assistance, whether that be through the donation of food items or house rentals the better”.

“This is one of the great challenges for Port Stephens and the Sallies nationally,” he said.

Anne Fletcher, from the Raymond Terrace-based family and neighbourhood centre said that homelessness referral numbers had consistently ranged from 30 to 50 per month over the past five years.

“We provide an additional 20 or so referral, information, enquiry, advice type interactions with clients that for one reason or another we are unable to assist. We service the entire lifespan, our youngest client being around 13 years old and our eldest 85,” she said.

Ms Fletcher acknowledged that the problem of homelessness had always existed “but hidden, due to lack of availability to services to support people who find themselves without stable accommodation”.

“Unfortunately, affordable properties for recipients of Newstart, let alone Youth Allowance, are not in abundance across the region. Family and domestic violence is another common cause of homelessness.”

Ms Fletcher said that while the Raymond Terrace service did not provide emergency accommodation, people seeking this service would be referred to Link2Home, who can be contacted on 1800 152 152.

This year’s Anti-Poverty campaign, ‘Raise the Rate’, is lobbying to have Newstart and related payments increased as an effective way to reduce poverty in Australia.

“This campaign is aimed at increasing the rate of Newstart and associated allowances by $75 a week and we encourage everyone to get involved.”

Lifeline: 13 11 14