HELPING HOMELESS: Leah Pavey, year 10, Nikita Watts, year 12, and Daniel Albert, year 12, preparing for the school’s sleep out.
HELPING HOMELESS: Leah Pavey, year 10, Nikita Watts, year 12, and Daniel Albert, year 12, preparing for the school’s sleep out. Dominic Geiger

Kids help needy by sleeping rough

OVER at Australian Christian College's Caboolture campus, the students are preparing to "sleep rough" for a night.

"The true measure of a society is how it helps its helpless members," Year 12 student Daniel Albert, quoting Ghandi, said.

The sleep out, to be held on school grounds on August 21, was the brainchild of fellow Year 12 student Nikita Watts.

Miss Watts said homelessness, particularly youth homelessness, was a growing problem.

"It's becoming more prevalent," she said. "It's bigger than what it was a few years ago."

On any given night, up to 20,000 Queenslanders are without a home.

Speaking before the start of national Homelessness Prevention Week on August 3, Queensland Housing Minister Leeanne Enoch said latest figures suggested about 105,000 people across Australia were without a secure place to sleep each night.

"About 2.5 million Australians are living below the poverty line and all indications are that the gap between our richest and poorest is getting wider," she said.

Living in a tent on a vacant block in Caboolture is a man who wants to be referred to only as "S".

He shares the flimsy two-man structure with his partner and a five-year-old dog called Lilly-Rose.

S fell into sleeping rough after losing his job as a welder-fabricator, and became in arrears with his rent, just after Christmas last year.

Although he and his partner have been offered crisis accommodation, nowhere has accepted animals, so S has preferred to "tent it" over comfort in a motel.

"I've suffered from depression for many years," S said. "The dog does benefit me. I don't see why I can't fight for both." Meantime, Ms Enoch said $183.6 million had been set aside in last month's State Budget to expand and improve Government-owned social housing, as well as funding for support services.

The Queensland Government has set aside $6.6 million to re-establish the tenant advice and advocacy service to enable tenants to access free independent and impartial advice on renting.

Queensland Association for Independent Legal Services released research showing a decrease in free legal advice on tenancy issues could directly impact on the number of people who become homeless.

Director James Farrell said community legal centres had welcomed Labor's interim telephone service for tenants.

"A person who is evicted or entered on the tenancy database may not be able to rent privately," he said.

"Our findings demonstrate that if a person can access free legal advice ... then it can prevent homelessness."

Breaking Homelessness Down

The latest available snapshot in Australia - taken on Census night, 2011 - showed 19,831 Queenslanders were homeless.

Of those:

1582 people lived in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out

3786 people stayed in accommodation for the homeless

4308 people stayed temporarily in other households

3775 people stayed in boarding houses

194 people stayed in other temporary lodging

6186 people lived in severely crowded dwellings



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