This interview with Kaylean Smith is part of an oral history project celebrating 25 years of the Homeless Persons Information Centre [HPIC]. The project was conducted in 2009. HPIC was a telephone referral service operated by the City of Sydney for people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness. At the time of the interview Kaylean was HPIC’s Senior Referral Officer. In the excerpt below she talks about the effect on homelessness of the ever-increasing cost of real estate in Sydney.
The majority of our clients are still on a Centrelink payment but, yes, because of rent increases and [it] being harder to find rental properties now they’re being evicted, or haven’t paid their rent, that’s the main sort of reason now to why people are becoming homeless. And the interest rate hikes that went up over the last couple of years obviously brought the rental prices up for a lot of places for investors who had mortgages, which brought the whole market up, so the whole rental market has gone up to ridiculous prices and a normal client, maybe a mum with children on the Centrelink benefit, just couldn’t sustain the cost. At the moment, even for just a two bedroom unit the minimum could be two fifty, three hundred [dollars] a week. And if you’re a mum, you know, with one child you’re lucky if you’re getting seven hundred a fortnight. You’re not left with much over a fortnight to buy food and electric, pay for all your bills. A few years ago what we did was if someone was homeless and we couldn’t find a refuge, or we thought they would be better off in more low-cost housing, we’d then give them numbers for boarding houses and caravan parks to try as well; there was not a lease or anything like that but it was affordable. You’d get a boarding house room for maybe a hundred dollars a week. Where now, even with the economic times and the rental crisis going up, a lot of the boarding houses are now full, because people just can’t afford to move out into other places so they’re not generating those vacancies in those sort of services. Caravan parks are just full as well. So, we’re finding it really difficult, not only to try and get people into refuges, but into low-cost housing as well, because it’s just near impossible to obtain now. A lady could be ringing every day for three to four weeks and you still may not even place her after that period of time.