A WELFARE agency that provides support services to disadvantaged people on the Mornington Peninsula is grappling with a range of issues exacerbated by the pandemic.
While the number people seeking help has “always been high”, Southern Peninsula Community Support CEO Jeremy Maxwell says COVID-19 has increased the price of housing “profoundly affecting the cost of living for vulnerable people”.
“Overall, we have seen a large increase in people impacted by homelessness,” Mr Maxwell said, adding that every year the service provides emergency relief to more than 1600 people and their families.
“The bulk of housing options are in the private rental market, and since the rental moratoriums ended in March, rents have skyrocketed,” he said.
“Forced evictions have escalated and the pressure from that, as well as loss of income and challenges, such as lockdowns, has seen high numbers of people with family violence and mental health issues.
“The level of complex problems in all of our emergency relief programs is growing and, without our efforts, would largely be unmet. We are the only agency that does what we do in our part of the peninsula, which is to provide a complex holistic support framework for those in need.
“We are seeing a group of people who have never had to negotiate the welfare system, married couples on low incomes, older people who have lost their partners, and young people who are all being affected.”
Mr Maxwell said a $7500 donation from Flinders District Lions Club would finance outreach programs: Southern Peninsula Laundry and Shower (SPLaSh) and Southern Peninsula Homeless Connections which will “especially help those sleeping rough on the foreshore or in their cars who are doing it hardest”.
Mr Maxwell said many of the users were not “engaging with the main housing agencies because of trust or behaviour issues”.
He said the Connections program that started last November aimed to build trust and connect people with other agencies which did not have outreach programs.
Demand for the service had been so strong – with 93 clients in its first few months – that the person running the program was “overwhelmed”.
Mr Maxwell said the programs worked together to provide food, toiletries, warm clothing, tents, sleeping bags and a whole range of different things to get clients out of trouble.
“Sometimes we receive donations that help with these things but lately, with the demand being the highest it’s ever been, we are needing to buy a lot,” he said.