A peak body for homelessness says children are increasingly accessing their services, as Ballarat struggles to provide affordable housing for low-income earners.
According to the Council to Homeless Persons, almost 11,000 primary and secondary students in Victoria sought assistance from homelessness services in 2016-17, an 11 per cent increase on the previous year.
Uniting Ballarat’s Grampians homelessness network coordinator Jax Roan said homelessness was expanding in every demographic.
“It’s ever increasing, our numbers have gone up every year,” she said.
“Over the last 10 years in Ballarat, we’ve had lower rental vacancy rates than Melbourne. And we don’t have the income streams Melbourne does, but we have a tighter rental markets.
“Our single largest group is children. A lot of people think that the homeless are bad people who brought it on themselves, but how can you say that about a ten year old kid who is homeless with their family?”
Council to Homeless Persons CEO Jenny Smith said vulnerable households have been forced to move into marginal accommodation, such as caravan parks.
“People are increasingly moving out of Melbourne in search of cheaper rent, creating more competition for cheaper properties in regional areas such as Ballarat,” she said.
“Moving further out is no longer the solution – people just find themselves further away from jobs and transport, and still paying more rent than they can afford.”
Ms Smith said the most recent rent report from the Department of Health and Human Services showed a single parent on a low income looking to rent a home two-bedroom home in Ballatat has just six in 10 properties they could afford.
“On average, a low income household will be spending more than 30% of their income on rent in Ballarat, leaving very little over for basics such as food, utilities and medical bills,” she said.
The Council to Homeless Persons have made a submission to the 2017-18 State Budget calling for 14,500 new social housing properties to be built over the next five years.