The number of people doing it tough in Maitland is on the rise with more than 700 individuals and families on a waiting list for public housing.
A survey carried out by Hunter Homeless Connect at a recent open day found that the Hunter region currently accounts for about seven per cent of all homelessness in NSW.
Compass Housing’s NSW operations manager Lisa Tierney said the level of need continues to grow.
Maitland has a total of 1802 social housing properties with 724 families and individuals on a waiting lists. In the last census the Bureau of Statistics estimated there were about 110 people homeless in Maitland.
According to Family and Community Service data the expected waiting time for social housing in Maitland is five to 10 years.
Hunter TAFE has been engaged to survey people to help Compass Housing develop a more complete picture of homelessness in the Hunter region, Ms Tierney said.
Key findings from the recent survey show that 1000 people attended Hunter Homeless Connect day, an increase of 10 per cent on last year.
It also found that the number of women seeking help is on the rise with the number of women attending the day increasing by 25 per cent over the past two years. Women experiencing relationship breakdowns or escaping domestic violence account for 31 per cent of the overall homeless population.
Almost 20 per cent of all attendees were classified homeless. Of those 18.5 per cent were either sleeping rough, in cars, couch surfing or staying in hostels and refuges.
Indigenous Australians continue to be over-represented among those at risk. Despite comprising just 2.6 per cent of the region’s population, 21 per cent of attendees at the Hunter Homeless Connect Day identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.
Ms Tierney said while rough sleepers were the most vulnerable, the data pointed to a growing problem of housing stress and “hidden homelessness” across the region. “Rough sleepers only account for a small percentage of the homeless population,” she said.
“There may be more who are forced to move around between boarding houses and caravan parks, or couch surf with friends or family and there simply isn’t enough social and affordable housing in the region to give those people a place to live.