The cold hard reality of homelessness is never more apparent than during winter’s chill.
According to Wollongong Homeless Hub, there’s around 1500 people who are homeless on any given night in the Illawarra – with hundreds of those sleeping rough on park benches, city streets and at breezy beaches.
It’s not just the cold they have to deal with; health issues too are exacerbated during the winter months with rough sleepers catching seasonal colds and flu or experiencing flare-ups of underlying health problems.
Even with subsidies, for most of them the price of prescriptions for the medications required are often out of reach.
Agencies like the homeless hub are doing their bit to provide care packages, meals, shelter, sleeping bags and tents to people down on their luck.
People like Glenn Lillico, who’s been sleeping rough for the past six weeks after losing his job due to unexpected illness.
‘’As quick as overnight sort of thing, I lost a lot of things and ended up on the street’’, he told the Mercury.
The homeless hub deals with hundreds of ‘clients’ – the majority are male, and many are couples with children. On any given night around 175 of their clients will be sleeping rough, nearly 200 will be in short-term emergency accommodation and over 100 are at imminent risk of homelessness. These are the ones they know about.
The rising homelessness issue in the region is outlined in a discussion paper which is on the agenda at tonight’s Wollongong City Council meeting.
The paper, included in a housing strategy report, reveals that there’s been an 85 per cent increased in homelessness in Wollongong’s LGA over the past decade.
As well, it reveals that more than 9000 Wollongong households are experiencing housing stress and struggling to pay their rent or mortgages.
Council staff have recommended the discussion paper be made available on council’s website, so that community members can be informed – and can be part of the discussion on a new housing strategy for the city. One that can hopefully help those currently experiencing – or at risk of – homelessness.
And that could be any one of us, says Mr Lillico: ‘’You can have everything good in your life one minute, and be on the street the next’’.