Homelessness on the rise across the Gladstone Region
WHILE the latest Census figures appear to show a drop in the number of homeless people living in the Gladstone Region, the people who deal with the situation on the ground every day warn the data is skewed and the problem is in fact getting worse.
There were 215 people recorded as living without a home across the region in 2016, down significantly from the 464 people recorded in 2011.
That data covers people sleeping rough, but also refers to those staying in supported accommodation, overcrowded houses or living temporarily with friends.
Salvation Army lieutenant Chris Ford spends many of his days, and often his nights, working with homeless people in Gladstone and its surrounding towns.
Lt Ford says the figures from 2011 would be technically correct, but it was important to look at them in the right context.
"That was right at the height of the boom, so the rents were high... but we also had a lot of people who were strictly classified as homeless but were earning six figures," he said.
"We had FIFO people sleeping in their cars and then going home to their families every week."
Lt Ford said the Salvation Army had in fact been seeing an increase in genuine homeless cases, particularly over the last six to 12 months.
"We see about 100 people a week coming through our door, and roughly a third are homeless," he said.
"In February we dealt with about 35 individuals... last year that number was usually around 5 or 6.
"A number of them come to us through the police... we try to support them as best we can, get them established a bit, plus we have a lengthy chat with them to work out the issues that led to them being homeless in the first place."
Lt Ford said it was not so surprising Miriam Vale and the Gladstone Hinterlands (which includes Mount Larcom, Ambrose and Raglan) registered high numbers due to their proximity to the Bruce Hwy.
"A lot of these people are picked up while travelling," he said.
Roseberry Community Services general manager Colleen Tribe agreed the problem had spiked over the last year in particular, with both of Roseberry's community housing facilities now completely full.
"We have about 15 people a week coming in to the Dignity Hub, and we're only open three days," she said.
"They come to Gladstone thinking they'll get cheaper rent, and then there are fewer houses than they thought there would be available.
"The problem is, we don't have the increased resources to match it. We're stretched to the absolute limit."
Both Ms Tribe and Lt Ford said it was important people living with financial hardship did not wait until they were evicted to get help.
"Don't leave it till the last minute. It is so much easier to deal with it before it gets to that point," Lt Ford said.
"We can go in and advocate for people, or have them speak to a financial counsellor, or arrange hardship payments."