Teenagers sleeping on the street in Australia because of problems at home, couch surfers and chronically homeless people are among those who will be needing the services of Tasmanian charities this winter.  One of Greater Hobart’s main outreach services is Loui’s Van, run by St Vincent de Paul.  The charity’s policy is to serve anyone who showed up

On Thursday the Sunday Tasmanian joined the van’s team to meet people looking for food and company on a cold night.

A night on the streets this week revealed a range of people accessing welfare services.

Among them was a group of 14-year-olds who missed a bus and intended to sleep in the street.

One of the boys said he often preferred to sleep rough to avoid the “s..t” happening at home.

The rising cost of living, high unemployment figures and a shortage of affordable housing are putting more pressure on families and creating extra demand for welfare services.

Organisations including St Vincent de Paul, the Salvation Army and the Hobart City Mission have been encouraging Tasmanians to donate money, warm clothes or blankets as demand on charities reaches its annual peak.

The charity’s regional manager Pat Flanagan said the policy was to serve anyone who showed up.

As well as homeless people, the van attracts international university students, migrant families and backpackers.

The rising cost of basic provisions also prompts people to seek food, not only for themselves but for neighbours.

“If you look at the figures of who has come over the last week that would give you no indication of who will come tonight,” Mr Flanagan said.

Mr Flanagan said his biggest concern was for people asking for crisis services. He said there was nowhere to send them at night, and while there was an emergency housing hotline, the city’s few shelters were always full.

He said street sleepers represented only a small percentage of the people who frequented Loui’s Van. And of those who did sleep rough, many did so not because they had nowhere to go but because they had mental health or addiction issues or were avoiding problems at home.

Loui’s Van has 250 volunteers who each spend one night a month preparing and serving food and drinks to whoever comes to the van.

The van visits Glenorchy and Hobart from Sunday to Thursday nights, and the Bridgewater-Gagebrook area on a Friday night. Each night a volunteer team of up to six people arrives at St Vincent de Paul in Argyle St at 6.30pm to prepare food for the evening’s rounds.

The van’s menu includes hot soup, fresh or toasted sandwiches, hot drinks, biscuits and fresh fruit. Local bakeries also donate large amounts of leftover loaves and rolls.

When the van arrived at the Glenorchy Council carpark at 7.50pm on Thursday, there were two men waiting one recently released from prison.

Another was a regular who often collects bags full of bread to be distributed to his elderly neighbours. Soon a woman and another man joined the group.

The man, who was younger than the others, was a couch surfer; the woman attends the van most nights because of the high cost of food.

Mr Flanagan said it was unusually quiet, adding there were normally many more people there to meet the van at Glenorchy. After 40 minutes, the van left at 8.30 and headed to Hobart. When it arrived at its usual spot on the corner of Elizabeth Mall and Liverpool St, about 10 people were waiting.

All were men except for a female backpacker who had just arrived from Canada. The group quickly grew to about 30 people.

Those who spoke to the Sunday Tasmanian included a man, 62, who had been sleeping in his car for six months, another man who was sleeping at a friend’s place, and four teenage boys who were planning to sleep rough after missing their bus.

While some of the van visitors knew each other and congregated in small groups others stood on their own at the edge of the group, eating their sandwiches in silence.

Until the 2011 Census results are released, the most recent figures available on homelessness in Tasmania are those collected in the 2006 Census.

A total of 2507 people were counted as homeless then only a slight increase on the 2001 Census.

In 2006, 15 per cent of the state’s homeless, about 380 people, were considered primary homeless, 75 per cent secondary (couch surfers) and 10 per cent tertiary (long-term boarding house residents).

Tasmania had the equal fourth-highest proportion of homelessness of any state, at 52.4 per 10,000.

Source: http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2012/06/10/335941_tasmania-news.html



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