There Are Almost 30,000 Employed And Homeless Australians
Employed but homeless, thousands of Australians stuck in a 'crazy cycle'.
Dylan Garner and Erin Swale, both in their 30s, have been together for years. They met through mutual friends, and six months ago moved to Melbourne looking for work.
Dylan found employment driving forklifts and putting up marquees; Erin splits her time between working, volunteering and studying, and aims to become a social worker.
Dylan and Erin are also homeless.
They're just two of thousands of Australians currently working without a place to call home.
There are almost 30,000 people in Australia who are employed but homeless, according to the most recent Census -- almost one third of the entire homeless population.
"It's a very common thing that we see, when people present for our support," said Wayne Merritt of Melbourne City Mission.
Working wages are stagnating, while the cost of rent in Australia is soaring. It can prove a vicious cycle for people who are forced to spend more than they can budget for on rental accommodation, but then find themselves unable to pay rent.
"They can actually have a roof over their head, but once they do, and they're paying that extra amount of money [in proportion to their wages], everything else kind of falls down," said Merritt.
"It's a crazy cycle. If people don't have the right support around them, it just takes one little thing for them to slip back into being homeless."
Rental bidding and multiple rent increases per year are all driving the cost of rental properties, said Merritt, as well as a lack of affordable housing.
Dylan and Erin -- who have been homeless for about six months -- are looking for housing around the $250 per week mark. The average cost of renting in Melbourne, according to the Department of Human Services, is $420 per week.
"It's really hard," said Dylan. "We've applied for heaps of places, but we never seem to get any calls back."
Right now, he and Erin are earning about $1000 a fortnight, which doesn't put them over the threshold where real estate agents will rent to them. They're applying for about ten properties a month.
"You're competing against so many people, too," said Erin. "It's just really hard."
Without a place to call home, they're sleeping rough. Sometimes, on pay day, they'll splurge on a hostel to have a roof over their heads and a hot shower for the night, but otherwise, they're out on the street.
"We've got a little spot that we stay at. It's dry, but it's not very nice," said Dylan.
"The first few months, we didn't know anyone on the street, so I'd pretty much stay awake all night. I'd always keep guard.
"Now we've got a little group of people, I can always have a sleep. But it's hectic. It is hectic."
Holding down a job without a permanent address creates all sorts of problems that non-homeless workers don't have to face. Just taking a shower can be a logistical nightmare, and people do face stigma if their homeless state becomes known within their workplace.
"It is appalling that in a wealthy, prosperous country like Australia, nearly 30,000 can work but not earn enough to afford basics like housing," said Sally McManus of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
"We need a liveable wage. We need to change the rules so that working a full-time job doesn't leave you homeless."
Teachers, cleaners, hospital workers and childcare workers are among those victims of the housing crisis, according to the Council to Homeless Persons. Even when they're landing accommodation, they're being pushed to the outer edges of the city, bringing greater financial burdens thanks to paying more for things like public transport and childcare.
"Even in the outer suburbs, low-income earners are living in rent stress with no savings for emergencies like a car breaking down," said Lanie Harris at the CHP.
Things might be rough, but Dylan and Erin remain optimistic that things will turn around.
"Things are looking up," said Dylan.
"We've got the car [provided by homelessness organisations] that we can drive, it helps us out a lot. I'm picking up more work. Fingers crossed we'll be okay."