Families and young people are becoming the face of Queensland’s homelessness crisis

Families and young people are becoming the face of Queensland’s homelessness crisis
  • PublishedDecember 7, 2023

Jasmine Sloane doesn’t know how long she’ll have to wait before she finds a home for herself and her four children.

“How long is a piece of string?” she says.

“It could be tomorrow, it could be next week … it could be next year.” 

Ms Sloane is currently living out of a Brisbane city hotel room with support from the charity Micah Projects.

But the room is too small for all four siblings — aged 5 to 15 — so two of them have to stay at her mother’s garage.

The family has been living this way since their landlord put up the rent in their suburban home four weeks ago.

“The affordability of rentals is out of my price range, and bedroom space for my four children as well — it’s hard to gain property that is adequate for my family,” she said.

“My mental stability is going downhill fast.”

Families at risk

Ms Sloane is part of a disturbing new trend in Queensland’s housing crisis – a growing number of families who are suddenly facing homelessness.

“We’ve got 90 families in motels just as one agency,” says Micah Projects CEO Karyn Walsh. 

“There’s other agencies, so that means there are well over 100 families in motels [in Brisbane] and hundreds when you look at Queensland as a whole.”

Woman with short blonde curly hair wearing a white and black printed top and black cardigan.
Karyn Walsh is the CEO of the not-for-profit organisation Micah Projects.( ABC News: Michael Lloyd )

While all Australian cities have homelessness, the pressures have been particularly acute in Queensland post-COVID.

“There’s competition in Queensland now because so many people are moving up here,” Ms Walsh says.

“We’ve seen rents go up over $200 in one hike.”

There’s also an increasing number of young people being caught up in the crisis.

“Over the last four years we’ve seen an 88 per cent increase of young people seeking support,” says Pam Barker from Brisbane Youth Service (BYS).

“In the last 12 months we’ve provided just under 60,000 occasions of support to young people.”

Woman wearing a white top with a green leaf print and a black blazer on top. She has short black hair.
Pam Barker says there’s been a large increase in young people seeking housing support. ( ABC News: Chris Gillette )

Grace*, 21, is being put up in a shared house by BYS while she studies and gets mental health support.

She spent three years living in youth hostels.

“The rent is just really high,” she told 7.30.

“I would have $50 sometimes for food to keep me going for two weeks.”

The surge in demand for emergency accommodation has forced more people to sleep rough – with an increasing number of tents appearing in parks in Brisbane and other Queensland regional centres.

Mick Sutherland has been sleeping rough near the Brisbane CBD with his girlfriend since they got out of jail three weeks ago.

His girlfriend was recently sent to hospital with painful insect bites, and they had six bags of clothing stolen.

Mick says it’s worse than being in jail.

“I’d rather go back, to be honest,” he says.

“I’d rather have a roof over our head … showers clean and no judgement from people walking past when they think you’re a crack head and you’re not.”

The Queensland government says it’s moving fast to allay the crisis by providing rent relief and building more social housing.

“We’ve had the largest concentrated investment we’ve ever had in Queensland to deliver social and affordable homes,” Queensland Housing Minister Megan Scanlon told 7.30.

“So far we’ve delivered 4,000 [homes] but we still have nearly 10,000 to go.”

Woman with medium brown hair wearing a beige shirt sitting in an office.
Megan Scanlon, Queensland Housing Minister.( ABC News: Chris Gillette )

The Queensland government also recently purchased an 84-bed Brisbane hotel to provide emergency accommodation.

“Sometimes it might just be a short stay here where people just need a bit of temporary shelter,” says Kevin Mercer from the St Vincent de Paul Society.

“But generally, we find that length of stay is stretching out and as an organisation we’re not going to exit people onto the street unless they’ve got a solution.”

Bald man wearing a blue and white checked business shirt and glasses.
Kevin Mercer is the CEO of St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland. ( ABC News: Chris Gillette )

Jason Murchie says the accommodation has literally been a life saver.

“If it wasn’t for this place, I probably wouldn’t be here now,” he says. 

Jason suffers from a mental illness and spent months sleeping rough and in a boarding house. He welcomes the security of having his own room.

Older man wearing a black top and jeans, sitting on a bed.
Jason Murchie has been in emergency accommodation for the past eight weeks.( ABC News: Chris Gillette )

“it gives you a sense [that] you’re finally safe and then you can actually unwind yourself and go, ‘Right, I don’t have to fight for survival every second of every day.'”

Karyn Walsh says the challenge is how to turn this reprieve into a longer-term solution.

“We need to look at how people can move through this crisis into something that’s much more about their future, not just surviving.


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