With the increasing rent and cost of living crisis, more people are balancing the act of keeping a roof over their heads while others are not even that fortunate.

SEACEP opened Gunida Gunyah’s doors last Thursday for a Homeless Community Connect day, so services could connect with people at risk.

Nine people make up the Social Engagement and Community Empowerment Project (SEACEP).

They developed a ‘Community and Connection Strategy’ that aims to identify gaps in services along with setting terms for engaging with Aboriginal organisations for effective programs and services.

It is funded through the NSW Reconstruction Authority.

The committee includes Gemma Wicks, Jane Bender, Stephanie Cameron, Wade Natty, Prue Jeffrey, Tracy Campbell, Leroy Wilkinson-Maher, Wayne Griffiths and Debra Hilton, all who work for services or organisations which connect with the community.

The project group used feedback from a survey to plan activities or events in the area related to its aims.

The Homeless Community Connect day was the first scheduled event, which saw supplies and services in one accessible spot.

When considering homelessness, often the city comes to mind but Gunnedah has it hidden.

Prue Jeffrey from SEACEP spoke about how homelessness is not always obvious.

“I think because it is hidden and you will find a lot of young people are couch surfing,” she said.

“They do not have a home to go to – they have somewhere to sleep.”

She mentioned many younger people in Gunnedah will choose to go without youth refuges or shelters.

“[There are] shelters in Tamworth but [people] do not want to leave here, either because this is where their families or friends are or where they are connected,” Ms Jeffrey said.

“I think events like this open awareness to homelessness and people may not feel comfortable to come [on the community connect day] but I think it puts a spotlight on what services are available to help in the future.

“They can have a conversation afterwards.”

Gunida Gunyah has also stepped up with the demand of housing by supplying short term accommodation through Homes North.

Ms Jeffrey recognised how it has assisted in housing the homeless.

“You would have a young person at 16 years old, homeless, ring Link2home and be told, ‘sorry, there is no accommodation for you’,” she said.

“Where does that young person go if they do not have a mate?”

A Secondbite partnership assists in feeding community members and families struggling with the cost of living.

SEACEP and Gunida Gunyah’s Stephanie Cameron has seen how the corporation has helped people at risk.

“We have the clothing, shoes and small appliances. We also have housing here and we have other programs as well,” she said.

Youth are not the only ones at risk.

Homelessness is on the rise for older Australians as well.

A Safe Place to Call Home’s Mission Australia’s Homelessness and Stable Housing Impact Report 2023, states: “Older women over 55 years were the fastest growing group of people experiencing homelessness in Australia.”

The same study stated that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are disproportionately affected with 28 per cent of people accessing services.

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