Home, sweet home
VICKI Webb, of Ballina, considers herself to be very lucky to have something most of us simply take for granted.
The mother of four grown-up children and a 10-year-old this week attended a Ballina District Community Services Association (BDCSA) barbecue to mark World Homeless Day.
It was through the BDCSA that Ms Webb was able to secure a North Coast Community Housing home - one of 70 community housing units in Ballina.
And her story highlights the changing profile of those in the community who find it hard to find a place to live.
She was in a relationship when she moved to Ballina six years ago.
The relationship broke down, and then Ms Webb had a fall at home, with her injuries made worse by osteoporosis.
Ms Webb, now 46, was left to survive on a disability pension, but the increasing rental costs in Ballina meant she couldn't find a place to live. Commercially rented properties generally don't allow tenants to move in to properties if the rent exceeds 30 per cent of income.
"It's very hard to find housing," she said.
"I applied for several places but kept getting knocked back.
"If it wasn't for them (BDCSA), I don't know if we (Ms Webb and her son) would have made it."
She said she didn't want to move away from Ballina as her son attends school here, and she didn't want to be in a share house.
Colin Jones, the housing services manager for North Coast Community Housing, said the "housing shortage in coastal towns is extreme".
He estimated there were about 350 public housing properties in Ballina, which was a high-demand area.
He said those trying to get into public housing could wait more than a year.
And Susan Zann, a BDCSA case manager, said that leads people into caravan parks or "couch surfing".
She said the profile of those struggling to put a roof over their heads includes pensioners, but also the "working poor" - young families with an income, but one that doesn't take them above the 30 per cent commercial rental rule.
She said adding to the problem were increasing utility costs.
Matt Wyles, the Salvation Army's family housing worker, said the Salvos were seeing more people "putting their hand out" for help for the first time.
The BDCSA's executive officer, Dianna Howell, said it was time that all levels of government worked together to provide affordable, sustainable housing.
It's very hard to find housing