Crusader says homelessness is getting worse in Ipswich
BARRY Rienecker has spent seven years championing those sleeping rough on the streets of Ipswich and believes homelessness is getting worse.
He is the co-ordinator of Rosies Ipswich, which works through its outreach efforts to restore dignity and respect for people who are homeless or disadvantaged.
Mr Rienecker said he was seeing more people sleeping rough on Ipswich streets and more local families struggling to make ends meet with the problem "a lot bigger than people realise".
"We're seeing more families that come along to get that additional bit of financial support," he said.
"We're seeing more families in that situation.
"If you look at the wider view of homelessness ... it includes people who are couch surfing and that sort of thing. We do have a large number of people sleeping rough. But we also have people who let other people share their accommodation.
"It's wider than those people you see in doorways or sleeping in parks. The problem is a lot bigger than people realise. It's out of view. The people themselves don't like to be seen as homeless, they tend to disappear from view. There's a lot of people we're not seeing."
Speaking during Homelessness Week, held between August 4-10, Mr Rienecker said housing affordability was a massive part of the problem.
"But also in Ipswich - housing availability," he said.
"Everyone, whether they are homeless or not, really struggles to find decent rental accommodation. The stuff available is taken really quickly."
It is a busy time of year for Rosies, with countless blankets, cups of tea, noodles and soup handed out to those without a roof over their head in the cold winter months, working alongside a number of other organisations in freezing conditions.
Mr Rienecker said it might be easy to judge those living on the street but in his role he knew everyone had a story to tell and it wasn't always the most obvious explanation.
He knew how true the phrase 'a lot of people are two pays away from being homeless' could be. "They're sleeping rough for a reason," he said.
"I know a young girl kicked out of home several times and struggling emotionally and financially. She is now sharing accommodation. It isn't of her choice. She tried to get her life back on track but like all of us she makes mistakes from time to time.
"I met this bloke this week who just got out of jail. When you get out of jail you have virtually nothing. Being able to support these people - whether it's toiletries or clothes - something as simple as socks got him by.
"I think the important thing is to recognise that homeless people are actually people. They're like you and I."
A new outreach program providing meals for those in need, the Ipswich Anglican Food Ministry, launched yesterday and will happen every Sunday from 4-6pm on the lawn of St Paul's Anglican Church next to d'Arcy Doyle Place.
"Currently there is very little - close to nothing - available for the homeless and those struggling financially on the weekends," Mr Rienecker said.
Mr Rienecker said anyone wanting to play their part for the city's homeless should contact a homelessness charity and ask them what assistance they need, whether it be by volunteering or donating items.
THE GOVERNMENT 'IGNORING' HOMELESSNESS
MEMBER for Blair Shayne Neumann is calling on the Federal Government to "stop ignoring" the issue of homeless- ness and invest in public housing.
The number of homeless people in his seat, which covers Ipswich and Somerset, recorded in the 2016 census was 522. The figure for the whole of Australia is 116,000 and Mr Neumann said the "housing affordability crisis gripping the country" needed to be addressed.
"(The government is) not focussing enough on it," Mr Neumann said.
"This is a problem is every major city but it's a problem in our city as well.
"You don't have to travel too far around Ipswich to see homelessness in parks, under bridges, in suburbs and the CBD. We've got to tackle it. We need to find social housing for them and other kinds of refuges.
"We need a national approach. The government has failed to invest in social and public housing. The government needs to show some leadership across this space."
Mr Neumann said the more unaffordable housing is, the more likely those at the bottom of the market fall into homelessness.
"Housing affordability is just getting worse and it is widening intergenerational inequality," he said.
"If the Morrison government put half the effort into housing and homelessness that it does trying to diminish the rights of working people, Australia would be a much fairer and more egalitarian place to live."
He said the the number of older women and young people experiencing homelessness was continuing to rise across every state in the country.