Geraldton food, accommodation services in high demand as locals feel the pinch of rent rises, JobSeeker cuts

Phoebe PinGeraldton Guardian
Foodbank Geraldton manager Jamie O'Brien
Camera IconFoodbank Geraldton manager Jamie O'Brien Credit: Tamra Carr/Geraldton Guardian, Tamra Carr

Geraldton social support services are bracing for a surge in demand when the moratorium on rent rises and evictions ends this weekend, leaving some people at risk of homelessness.

Looming reductions in the JobSeeker rate and an end to JobKeeper is also causing stress, with Mission Australia Mid West-Gascoyne area manager Paul Royce saying the demand for emergency relief has soared in recent weeks.

“In the last eight weeks we have probably had eight families come in who are at risk of homelessness,” he said.

“Their rents are either going to increase, people are selling their houses, or they are moving into them themselves and they have to vacate.

“We are not quite sure what is going to happen with JobKeeper ending as well ... we are not sure whether people will be made redundant or lose their positions because businesses are no longer receiving those extra dollars to keep people on.”

Mission Australia Midwest and Gascoyne Area Manager, Paul Royce,
Camera IconMission Australia Midwest and Gascoyne Area Manager, Paul Royce, Credit: Midwest Times, Adam Poulsen

Dr Royce said some families may be forced to move outside of Geraldton because of unaffordable rent rises. “We know that some families certainly are even looking at moving out of Geraldton to smaller communities because there might be more availability of rentals,” he said.

“We did have an example of a woman with five children come into our office to say her rent is going up from $350 a week to $550, which is just unsustainable.”

Foodbank Geraldton manager Jamie O’Brien said more customers were sharing stories of rental and financial stress.

“We have definitely seen an increase in people coming through the door in the last month,” he said.

“ ‘My Jobseeker is running out or my rent has gone up’ — we get those comments a lot from the new people who come through.”

Mr O’Brien said Foodbank Geraldton had anticipated the rise in demand when the end of the ban on rent increases and evictions was announced.

“We have been sitting and waiting for this moment,” he said.

“We knew that demand would pick up, we are prepared for it and we can deal with it.”

Mr O’Brien said there was no shame in asking for help and encouraged residents feeling the pinch to approach local support services.

Chrysalis House Women’s Refuge has not yet experienced an increase in requests for assistance related to rent increases or evictions, but Desert Blue Connect chief executive Russell Pratt said several clients were “stressed” about their living arrangements.

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