Labor candidate David Ewings meets with service providers in Armidale to discuss homelessness ahead of the New England by-election

HELPING HOMELESS: Labor senator Doug Cameron, New England by-election candidate David Ewings and Armidale Regional Council councillor Debra O'Brien joined community service providers for a forum on homelessness.
HELPING HOMELESS: Labor senator Doug Cameron, New England by-election candidate David Ewings and Armidale Regional Council councillor Debra O'Brien joined community service providers for a forum on homelessness.

HOMELESSNESS and rough-sleeping affects more than 200 people in Armidale, a Salvation Army study finds.

Meeting with Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness Doug Cameron, community service providers called on the federal government for solutions on Wednesday.

“The lack of accommodation, the financial stress that’s on people that are homeless, even for people that are not homeless to maintain housing, wage stagnation given cuts to penalty rates – these are all big issues being raised by non-government organisations who’s day job it is to try and help these people,” Mr Cameron said.

One of the most significant issues raised was the need for wrap-around services in regional Australia.

These include drug and alcohol addiction counselling, mental health support and stable housing.

Labor’s candidate in the New England by-election race David Ewings also attended the meeting.

Funding affordable housing in both federal and state governments is something community service providers said is a priority.

“[We need to be] putting in better supports for people that are working on the frontline,” Mr Ewings said.

“I might just say that the group we were speaking to that work across these services do an amazing job with very little resources.

“It’s a complex situation but we have to recognise that we are dealing with a human problem.

“We need to start seeing this as an investment in our human beings so that they can interact in society.”

The Armidale Neighbourhood Centre, where the meeting was held, offers no interest loans, advocacy and counselling – among other welfare programs.

But, with funding unable to match the cost of living and incomes – neighbourhood centres across the region are struggling.

They need the state and federal governments support to keep people off the streets.

Most days, more than 35 people will walk through the doors of the Armidale Neighbourhood Centre.

Each person faces individual issues, financial circumstances and often extenuating mental health problems that affect their ability to seek help.

Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness Doug Cameron said Armidale, along with most regional towns, isn’t immune from the problems occurring in the rest of the country.

“Poor people are doing it tough, they’re out on the streets,” he said.

“People are couch surfing and they need jobs, they need access to good health and good education.”

The meeting comes ahead of the New England by-election, where Labor is vying for former Member of New England Barnaby Joyce’s seat.