GROWING ISSUE: ABS findings show homelessness has risen in Gympie in the last five years.
GROWING ISSUE: ABS findings show homelessness has risen in Gympie in the last five years. Katarzyna Bialasiewicz

ABS reveals big rise in Gympie homeless population

GYMPIE has seen a 71 per cent spike in the rate of homelessness over the last five years, emphasising a need for attention and community action as the colder months approach.

Figures published by the Australian Bereau of Statistics last week found 289 homeless persons in the Gympie Local Government Area as of Census night 2016, up from 169 in 2011.

An estimated total of 116,427 people were identified as experiencing homelessness in Australia, including approximately 21,715 in Queensland, ranked only behind New South Wales and Victoria for the highest homeless figures.

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The Gympie stats are an extreme example of the 14 per cent increase across the state through the five-year span, and the 4.6 per cent increase nationwide.

Stacey Lowe, who co-owns the Royal Hotel with her partner Linc Phelps, posted an appeal on Facebook yesterday for community contributions towards backpack beds, which help those sleeping rough or out brave increasingly chilly night-time temperatures.

The beds are supplied by Backpack Beds for Homeless, a national charity that provides portable shelter for street sleepers.

 

HELPING HAND: Royal Hotel workers Brooke Mercer (left) and Tiff Jones with an example backpack bed for the homeless.
HELPING HAND: Royal Hotel workers Brooke Mercer (left) and Tiff Jones with an example backpack bed for the homeless. Contributed

Ms Lowe said the Hotel gets requests for help after hours, when community organisations are closed.

"When we are doing better in life and have plenty, the fact that someone needs a shower and a meal is important for us to remember," she said.

"When it's later at night there's nobody there to answer their phones, and the police can't do much for these people.

"I can give them a plate of rissoles and leftovers, but they still have to go out there in the cold.

"These people don't go looking for help until they're laying in the park and it's getting cold at around 7-8pm."

The Royal Hotel has continued to work with Community Action Gympie manager Michelle Hine to obtain the backpack beds, which are free to recipients but cost $100 each to supply.

Ms Hine said that Community Action, a not-for-profit organisation working to provide community housing, financial counselling and support services to those in need, had received 26 enquiries for housing in the past month.

Ms Lowe said donation tins at the hotel bars were pivotal in their ability to provide the swags.

"Every single donation helps us to replace the swags that we give out to people," she said.

Salvation Army Gympie officer Major Clair Smith said they had been seeing a "steady flow" of people through their Southside centre.

Apart from providing hot lunches every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the Salvos continue to provide those in need with breakfast, showers and laundry access five days a week.

Gympie Times


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