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More hungry and homeless as rising cost of living bites

More than 700 people sought help from Hutt St Centre last week, with welfare services reporting record numbers of people seeking food and shelter as the cost of living, rent and mortgage stress takes its toll.

Dec 21, 2022, updated Dec 21, 2022
Rising numbers are visiting Hutt St Centre for meals. Photo supplied

Rising numbers are visiting Hutt St Centre for meals. Photo supplied

Hutt St Centre reported 735 people sought assistance last week alone, with chief executive officer Chris Burns saying the number of women and children was on the rise.

“These are numbers we’ve never seen before in our recorded history,” he said.

Burns said the centre was also seeing more women made homeless as the rental squeeze continued and for the first time was seeing people being made homeless as they could no longer meet spiralling mortgage repayments.

“Traditionally we would see 70 to 80 people for lunch but we are regularly seeing over 100 people for lunch each day,” he said.

“These are not people we see every day, that we know – there are so many new faces.

“The cost of living has got to the point where people are just struggling to pay utility bills, food bills, their rent: cost of living has increased to a point where they can’t do it any more.”

Rental advocacy groups including the South Australian Council of Social Service have called for the State Government to introduce rent capping, citing state government data showing some rents rose by nearly double the CPI rate over the last year.

Median rents for a newly tenanted two-bedroom unit in Adelaide in the September Quarter of 2022 were 12.1 per cent higher than at the same time last year, while rents for three-bedroom houses were 15.8 per cent higher.

By comparison, the general inflation rate for Adelaide was 8.4 per cent for the year, high costs leading to more tenants being forced into homelessness.

Increased food delivery demand was also being experienced at Meals on Wheels, with chief executive officer Sharyn Broer saying that while it reflected an ageing state demographic, there was evidence of more clients sharing meals as living costs rise.

“We have seen an 18 per cent increase in meal services provided in the past two years,” she said, with numbers climbing from 971,000 meals in 2019/2020, to 1.15 million the following year.

“In terms of cost of living and how that follows through, what we see is our three-course meal that we deliver is designed to meet 40 per cent of daily nutrition.

“However, people may reduce the number of meals delivered, or they might stretch that one meal over two meals and sadly that’s not unusual, or for two people living together to share one meal.”

This could mean clients don’t receiving enough daily nutrition to remain healthy.

Broer said food is considered a discretionary spend and as Meals on Wheels is an affordable option, some clients may only be eating those delivered and not eating other meals during the week.

meals on wheels homeless food

Helping deliver food. Meals on Wheels CEO Sharyn Broer. Photo: John Krüger

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Renter advocacy groups in South Australia called for rent capping amid concerns that the State Government’s review of the Residential Tenancies Act is failing to address rental affordability.

SACOSS, Uniting Communities, Better Renting, and the Anti-Poverty Network SA all made submissions on the review discussion paper published by the Office of Consumer and Businesses Services, and have now united to highlight “the crisis in rental affordability”.

Campaigns coordinator for the Anti-Poverty Network SA Pas Forgione said the state was in a rental affordability crisis.

“(A)nd in a crisis, governments should take urgent action. We are seeing people skipping meals and medicines, because of huge rents and enormous rent rises,” he said.

“This cannot be allowed to continue. Governments have to intervene to protect people just trying to keep a roof over their head.”

Forgione said price controls had been applied to national energy markets at a federal level because electricity is an essential need.

“We need something similar for rent increases, because housing is an essential need, and rent rises are causing huge pain and stress to renters and their families,” he said.

Consumer and Business Affairs Minister Andrea Michaels said that more than 5000 people have completed online surveys and more than 80 submissions had been received in consultation over proposed changes to the residential tenancies laws.

Submissions closed on Monday.and the state government would now consider the feedback.

“Obviously, cost of living pressures can impact both tenants and landlords, and we want to ensure our residential tenancies laws stay modern, fit-for-purpose and fair to all parties,” Michaels said.

“The feedback we have received in this process will be invaluable as we consider what we can do to strengthen our residential tenancies laws to benefit the broader South Australian community.”

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