Anglicare SA

Homelessness can happen to anyone.

You often hear it said that many people “are just one or two pays away from being homeless”. There is more to homelessness than people sleeping on park benches or in doorways.

For some it’s sleeping in a car. For others it’s sleeping on a friend’s couch or in the garage of a relative. This is the reality of life without a permanent home.

Worryingly we are seeing increasing numbers of employed people and older women entering into homelessness.

 

Financial stress and the cost of living are now higher than ever before. Working families are struggling to make rental or mortgage payments and are at risk of losing their home.

Housing affordability is a huge problem. There is a social and affordable housing crisis right across Australia. Without suitable and secure affordable rental properties, more and more individuals and families will end up with nowhere to call home.

Of course, housing is not the only problem. Poverty (particularly for those receiving Centrelink benefits), domestic and family violence, drug and alcohol abuse and mental health issues are all major contributors to homelessness.

We must attack the problem on all fronts, including an urgent increase in the supply of social and affordable housing, tailored support services, and a multi-agency approach.

Adelaide has taken a lead role with its aim to become the first Australian city, and one of a handful in the world, to achieve functional zero homelessness. That means we are looking to act on the most visible form of homelessness first, rough sleeping, with the aim that on any given night, Adelaide would have enough accommodation to house all rough sleepers in the city.

The Adelaide Zero Project has already taken important steps, having met all those sleeping rough in the city in order to know them by name and have an understanding of each person’s specific circumstances and needs. This personal approach is seeing relationships built with the right service providers.

Existing and new housing options will be better utilised to move people on the by-name list into sustainable housing. Tier 1 housing providers such as AnglicareSA have commenced the process of sourcing and matching suitable housing with those in need.

Through the Zero Project, the community sector, business groups and all levels of Government are working together to end chronic street homelessness in Adelaide.

We welcome the effort of the 30-plus agencies dedicated to making this initiative a reality for Adelaide. We encourage others to add their support for this project which aims to not just reduce homelessness, but end it!

– Michelle Gegenhuber – AnglicareSA General Manager, Housing and Homelessness Services

Many of AnglicareSA’s community services support individuals and families who are experiencing some type of financial stress.

The flow-on effect of financial stress onto housing instability, family relationships and specialist services such as drug and other alcohol, mental health and domestic and family violence services is significant. And since systemic issues such as inadequate income and poor financial literacy are a key feature of so many of our clients’ stories we decided to sign up to Good Shepherd Microfinance’s The Financial Inclusion Action Plan (FIAP).

This groundbreaking social justice initiative aims to realise greater equality and inclusion by encouraging government, corporate and not-for-profit stakeholders to ‘take action’ and champion for better financial inclusion.

We collated data on 450 of the customers who recently used our financial counselling services to create a snapshot of financial security in South Australia. Here are 7 fascinating findings from that research.

Demand for financial counseling assistance is sky high

In 2017/18 we received 3,800 requests for our financial counselling services. However, due to resourcing constraints, and higher than expected demand, we were forced to turn away approximately 830 of these customers.

This is an increase of 50 per cent from 555 in 2016/2017.

36% of participants live in a private rental

A significant portion (36 per cent) of our financial counselling participants live in private rentals, while 16 per cent live in Community Housing Properties, and 4 per cent identify as homeless.

The 22 per cent of people who classified their housing arrangement as “other” included living with family/friends (couch surfing), and residing in domestic violence shelters, safe-houses or rehabilitation facilities.

Rising electricity costs are the most common presenting issue

The rising cost of utilities is by far the most common presenting issue, experienced by 47 per cent of our customers.

Most people accessing financial counselling are on Newstart

Over 85 per cent of the people accessing these services were in receipt of some type of Centrelink benefit – 36 per cent Newstart and 21 per cent the Disability Support Pension. 9 per cent were in paid employment (4 per cent full-time) which demonstrates that financial hardship is not limited to people in receipt of Centrelink benefits.

The top five sources of income for our financial counselling recipients is a Government Benefit:

Women disproportionately suffer financial exclusion

More than 60 per cent of the customers who presented to us looking for financial counselling assistance were women.

Comorbidities: 90% of customers are experiencing two + issues such as housing instability or harassment from creditors

Our experience on the ground reinforces Financial Counselling Australia’s position that the main causes of financial stress are usually unemployment, illness, relationship breakdown and poverty.

Financial stress rarely occurs in isolation, and so it is with the customers who use our financial counselling services, with 90 per cent of them experiencing two or more other associated comorbidities.

Financial Counselling is an essential Anti-Poverty Strategy

According to the ACOSS’ Poverty in Australia Report (2016), 57% of those living in poverty rely on Government Benefits as their primary source of income. With 89% of people accessing financial counselling support receiving a Government benefit (36% access Newstart), it can be extrapolated that a significant portion of those seeking financial counselling assistance are living in or on the fringe of poverty, which was defined in 2016 as living on an income of approximately $400 per week.

AnglicareSA respite foster carers Kerri and her husband Geoff regularly open their hearts and home to foster children in need.

As respite carers, the couple has foster children for a short period of time, usually a weekend, which provides a break for the children’s long-term carers.

The couple share the belief that respite care can be a fun experience for all parties involved. Kerri shared, “Some foster children don’t have extended family they can go to so, it’s like going to their favourite auntie or nanna’s house.” They like to give the child a break from their usual routine and make their time shared together exciting.

Weekends with their foster children are embraced by planning outings and everything throughout the weekend around the child. Kerri said, “At the end of the stay, the child gets to say goodbye knowing that they can come back again, making it the fun, loving house”.

The moments that matter most to Kerri are the tender times when the children warm her heart.

Kerri shared one of those times which occurred with a child who visits frequently. “We were all eating dinner together one night and he just lent over and put his arms around me. No words can describe that feeling.” She said this happens often, “He’ll be sitting and playing and then he’ll just stand up and come and sit on my lap and hold my face and kiss me”.

Kerri wanted others to know that any time they have to give is enough to make a difference. “If you think that you have a really busy life, which I do too, then you can give care as often as it suits you.”

She expressed her own initial overwhelming feelings of fearing the experience, as many new foster carers do.  It’s important for people considering foster care to know that they can take comfort in having 24/7 support available to them. AnglicareSA allocates placement support workers to every carer, working together through every step of the journey.

If you are considering becoming a foster carer like Kerri and Geoff, we would love to hear from you.

For more information on becoming a foster carer call (08) 8131 3456.

Adelaide’s rental affordability is at crisis levels and it’s even worse if you are single.

A single person on income support has no chance of finding private rental accommodation across Adelaide’s metropolitan area, according to the findings of Anglicare’s latest Rental Affordability Snapshot.

The results of the survey highlighted that of the 3,222 private rentals advertised on the day the snapshot was taken, not even one was affordable and appropriate for a single person on income support.

Only 1,261 or 39 percent were affordable and appropriate for households on the minimum wage.

AnglicareSA CEO Peter Sandeman said the snapshot clearly demonstrates the huge challenge faced by many people in the community trying to access the private rental market in Adelaide.

“While the results do not make for happy reading, they are not at all surprising,” said Peter. “In fact, they are telling us what agencies like AnglicareSA see and hear every day and that’s housing affordability is at crisis levels for Adelaide’s low income earners and the situation is not improving.”

“The unfortunate reality is that if you rely on income support and you want to access the private rental market, then there is very little hope.”

The snapshot found that all household types relying on an income support payment had access to 123 properties, or 3.8 percent of the rental market, much the same as a year ago. However, difficulties for home-seekers are further compounded by the fact that there were 439 fewer properties on the day we conducted the survey compared to 2017.

The National Rental Affordability snapshot 

The Rental Affordability Snapshot is designed to highlight the lived experience of looking for housing while on a low income. It focuses on the Australian population who earn the least income – Commonwealth benefit recipients and minimum wage earners. Each year, Anglicare Australia agencies search local newspapers and real estate websites for rental accommodation across the country.

This years reports are available on the Anglicare Australia website.

When Niki Howells-Schramm was three years old she asked her Grandad Tom to walk her down the aisle when she one day married.

The two had developed an enduring bond when Niki and her family had lived with her grandparents following the loss of their home in the Ash Wednesday bushfires.

So when Tom’s health deteriorated and he was unable to travel to Melbourne for his granddaughter’s wedding, Niki was determined to find a way to keep the commitment.  She decided to plan a second wedding, this one much closer to Tom.

Her mother, Tess Howells, contacted AnglicareSA’s Elizabeth Dutton Court residential aged care facility where Tom lives, with an unusual request.

“I asked them if it would be possible for us to hold a wedding ceremony at Elizabeth Dutton Court,” Tess said.

“They said yes straight away.  The staff embraced the idea and everyone has been so accommodating and helpful to us.  They have been wonderful.”

Residents at the facility have been invited to attend the ceremony and watch Niki realise her dream to have Tom walk her down the aisle.

AnglicareSA’s Head of Residential Aged Care, Jacinta Robertson, said Niki and Tom’s story had captured the imagination of the staff at Elizabeth Dutton Court and everyone was excited to help.

“Our carers become a part of our residents’ extended families,” said Ms Robertson.

“When an opportunity like this comes along to bring so much joy to a resident and his family, of course we will embrace it and do whatever we can to ensure it happens.

“Working in aged care, it’s not often you get to be involved in the planning of a wedding!

“To be able to help Niki realise her lifelong dream of having her Grandad walk her down the aisle is a real privilege.”

Niki and her husband Anastas will renew their wedding vows exactly a month to the day after their original Melbourne wedding, this time in front of 60 relatives and friends, including Tom’s fellow Elizabeth Dutton Court residents.  The ceremony will be followed by an afternoon tea reception.