The rising cost-of-living pressures holding countless households in a vice-like grip is the central theme running through the 2022 Federal election campaign, and Mid West families are feeling the pinch just as much as anywhere else. Two weeks away from election day, and the struggle to make ends meet will likely be the issue deciding how many voters cast their ballots. As the Liberal and Labor parties pitch their solutions to voters, the Guardian zeroed in on how the Mid West is faring. In the past year alone battlers and even those earning medium wages have struggled with rising food costs and shortages, soaring fuel prices, a rental crisis, other increasing bills and now the first interest rate rise in 11 years. Regional Alliance West operations manager Chris Gabelish said the support service provider had seen an increase in demand over recent months, with most new clients in need of housing. “The area of need we have seen the most increase in is homelessness appointments. It means we have people who are living in unsustainable accommodation, and that could be people living with friends or family, or in cars,” he said. “Of course there is also the Batavia (Motor Inne) where there are a lot of people who need some help.” Mr Gabelish said many of those in need had been without stable accommodation for months, with clients including individuals, couples and families with children. He said rising rent costs coupled with Geraldton’s low rental vacancy rate remained barriers to getting people housed. “In Geraldton we have about 1.2 per cent availability of private rentals. It has never been at that level previously for a sustained period of time, and of course rents have been increasing,” he said. “People who are on Newstart have no capacity (to apply for private rentals) and with the public housing list, even if you are on a priority list the wait time is extensive. We are talking one to two years on priority lists.” While many households are now seeking emergency relief and tenancy support for the first time, Mr Gabelish said RAW was not necessarily overrun with more requests for help than this time last year. “There is just not sufficient income right across the board and that goes on and on,” he said. Cost-of-living pressures are expected to be a hot topic this Federal election, but Mr Gabelish said the State Government also had a responsibility to help house Geraldton’s homeless population. “If (the State Government) just put money into refurbishing the properties that are boarded up, that would go such a long way in reducing homelessness in Geraldton,” he said. “These are people who might not be able to afford the private rental market, so therefore it is the State Government’s responsibility to get these boards off houses and get people into them.” The Mid West has one of the longest public housing waitlists in regional WA, with 1065 people as of March 31. Of those, 185 have been given priority status. As a case manager for employment services in the Mid West, Gwen Moir said the cost of living was absolutely unbelievable. “It’s something that I’ve got to be abreast of because I’ve got people coming in needing food hampers, because they can’t afford their food after paying their amenities like rent, water, electricity, and gas. They’re having to choose, people aren’t getting their medications.” She said the average person on a Centrelink payment gets between $500 and $600 a fortnight. A single parent of two or more children gets around $1200 a fortnight, which drops down to $900 when their youngest child turns eight. “Out of that, you think about how much it costs for rent, even in your cheap towns around here, it’s over $200 a week for rent,” she said. “So you might as well say that person’s not going to eat, if they want to live in their own home, then they have to look at group sharing. “How can you put a kid through school, clothe them, feed them, bathe them, ensure they’re warm, got a roof over their head for that amount of money?” Ms Moir appealed to the Federal Government to consider solutions and act. “Either lower the cost of living to what it was, two, three years ago, and raise the Centrelink payment, or do a scheme where the person’s rent is not part of their payments,” she said. “It gets paid by the government, then all other costings would be back on to the person that needed to have the money. Look at really, truly budgeting for a real human, not a statistic.” Drummond Cove Holiday Park manager Anne Bell said the park has had a handful of requests from people to permanently pitch tents for a place to live while they searched for rentals. “We’ve let people reside here for short periods of times in tents but we don’t want them to stay here full-time,” she said. “We’re receiving requests from people asking to permanently live in tents here, it’s pretty hard for people to find a rental in Geraldton.” A Foodbank spokesperson said no single government was to blame for the cost-of-living crisis and encouraged locals to vote for the party with policies that “aligned closest” to their own morals.