The Salvation Army says life is getting bleaker for our poorest, and that the numbers of poor are increasing.
The Salvation Army's annual survey drew responses from more than 1700 folk and is backed by Shelters for the Needy spokesperson Lea Keenan who said that the nation's poor have grown and that more Australians are homeless than ever before.
Ms Keenan is also part of a coalition of citizens driving a campaign - the Renters Alliance - to reduce rents, Australia-wide, and increase significant renters' rights and ensure Australians, particularly investors, realtors and legislators alike understand that a rental property is ones home and that it should never be regarded as anything less.
"There are now seventy per cent of Australians who are at the mercy of landlords, investors and realtors, as most Australians cannot afford a house. They should not be discriminated against, exploited so investors can pay first, second and third mortgages off their backs, that is off the labours of renters. The nation's moral compass is askew."
"Homelessness is increasing because of the horrific markets of greed in this country that have driven up home property prices and in turn thumped in these immoral rent levels. It's a pernicious crisis. Australians for Affordable Housing and the Renters Alliance both confirm this, so do social researchers, university academics, everyone, so it is about time parliamentarians do the conversation on property prices, regulate this market and return home ownership to the people rather than gift it to the investor and the exploiter. They must do the yarns on reducing rents and regulating them, on ensuring a comprehensive renters rights schedule - this is the profound conversation that we need," said Ms Keenan.
The Salvation Army's annual survey found more than half of those interviewed admitted not being able to afford three meals a day, skipping meals in order to afford other basic necessities.
Half were selling and pawning possessions to make ends meet. The debt crises are worsening, with new debt created each year for households, one in four had taken on new debt. A third could cannot afford heating, and more than a third cannot afford prescribed medicine.
Ms Keenan said a survey by Shelters for the Needy had interviewed 2,100 people and that it conveyed much the same analyses as the Salvation Army survey of 1,700 folk. "It indicated ever increasing enormous pressures on single parent and single income families, and that they are lagging behind in many basic necessities and quality of life each day."
She said that 80% of those surveyed were increasingly worried about the future.
The Salvation Army's Bruce Harmer said more people are seeking help from the Salvos than ever before. "Things are worse this year than in previous years and certainly those that are surveyed feel that as well."
He said 71% of those surveyed said they were worried about the future. "They're not expecting the future to be any better," he said.
The Salvation Army is concerned more people are falling into abject poverty.
The Salvation Army's Warren Palmer said, "59% of those people surveyed had to defter payments to utility providers, so that is a really big impact on those people struggling at the moment."
Ms Keenan said, "Unless our politicians care enough, unless they start considering the poorest, the homeless, the renters then things are going to get much worse, bleaker. Deprivation will become the order of the day, bills will be left unpaid, services cut off, more Australians will go without meals."
"The Salvation Army found that one third of people surveyed are going without heating. Well I can tell you this is true. In WA's South West it is cold right now and with winter approaching sub zero temperatures and residents of Bridgetown and nearby towns who are renters paying far too much to landlords and realtors, they cannot make ends meet, so they are going without heating, two of them told us they cannot afford a $150 trailer load of firewood for the winter. We are actually trying to raise the funds for these two families, however the problem is endemic."
"When renters are being exploited to meet the greed of others, to pay the mortgages of someone else and rents are so ridiculously high well for those whose wages are low how can they afford a trailer load of firewood?"
"It is obscene that we have let it go on for so long, that a landlord expects the mortgage paid by the poor old renter and that if they fail to pay the rent in any one week then they are out on their behinds, it's sick when you think of this more deeply than Australians have," said Ms Keenan.
The Salvation Army survey found ten per cent of folk had resorted to gambling, compounding their desperation and deprivation, and that 55% of those surveyed were worse off financially this year than last year, and Shelters for the Needy said this trend appeared that it would continue.
Most people did not have significant savings and many had no savings, with a majority of folk encumbered by debt and a significant percentage crippled by debt.
Many more people than ever before are going with warm clothes. bedding and various linen, many more families than ever before are without a phone.
More than 20% cannot afford to visit a doctor when in need.
42% cannot afford any dental treatment.
37% cannot afford prescription medication.
Mr Palmer said, "It is the depth of the hardship that is so confronting in these findings."
More than 90,000 West Australians alone go to the Salvation Army every year.
Australia-wide there are more than three million people in abject hardship according to Ms Keenan, with up to 9 million feeling the effects of significant stresses from outrageous rents and mortgages. "Let us remind ourselves that there are two hundred thousand peoples homeless."
Human Rights Alliance spokesperson Natalie Flower said there needs to be a coordinated campaign pressuring for outcomes and not limited to awareness-raising. "The HRA endorses the campaigns of the Renters Alliance and of Shelters for the Needy because if they are implemented they can reduce homelessness, enshrine at long last what the UDHR (Universal Declaration for Human Rights) calls for - shelter, a home, as a natural right - reduce poverty. The homeless include the poorest among us, a disproportionate number of Aboriginal peoples, those without mental well-being, and families thumped by ever increasing stressors which include rental and mortgage stress, however if we reduce rents and put together a schedule of renters rights then in line with the domino-principle there will be ripples of change for the common good, and economic well-being and not this economic madness."
"Life will get harder unless we make law what the moral compass is, we cannot trust those who thus far have let down humanity and the common good," said Ms Keenan.
He cannot afford basic items like school shoes and weekend family outings are rare
Our annual Red Shield Appeal doorknock is on the weekend of May 19-20 and we need 100,000 volunteer collectors to help make it a success
"Enough is enough with what renters go through and the hardship is only getting worse, with political parties geared to inherently supporting the interests of landlords and investors, who are actually fewer than the renters."
"Well if home property values are declining in Bridgetown and Donnybrook why are rents going up?"
The renters’ rights movement that recently started in the Blackwood region has spread Australia-wide with the Renters Alliance swamped with emails and calls from distressed renters, said Lea Keenan
The Human Rights Alliance contributes, and gives rise, to campaigns and causes in the seeking of civil and just remedies where it appears uncivil and inhumane injustices exist. The Human Rights Alliance is predominately a coalescing of volunteers, far and wide, who work on projects that will improve the lives of those less fortunate or who are in need of our helping hand
"In years past, we rarely saw working mums and dads come in to see us but over the last few years we've seen an increasing number of people who do have employment who are finding themselves also in need of some additional help,"
Thousands of Australians are going without meals as they battle to pay household bills, according to a Salvation Army study that paints a bleak picture of deprivation among the nation's poor
Australia is experiencing a critical lack of affordable housing. The number of public housing dwellings declined by more than 40,000 from 372,000 in 1996 to 330,000 in 2008, leaving 250,000 Australians to languish on public housing waiting lists, the majority for more than a year. Demand for public housing is estimated to rise by 28% or about 93,000 houses by 2023. Private rental costs have continued to increase beyond the rate of the CPI for more than five years. More than 600,000 families and single people are now in housing stress in the private rental market. This situation has compounded poverty for low-income earners, leaving more people vulnerable to homelessness.
The ABS cost of living survey showed those on low incomes were paying nearly three times the proportion of their income to service housing costs compared with those on upper-middle incomes. The lack of affordable housing has also changed the face of homelessness, contributing
to a rise in the number of homeless families and destroying exit points from homelessness into safe, secure, appropriate and affordable housing