Many hundreds of people are homeless in the Yorke Mid North area, including a group who are largely unseen in Port Pirie.
“A lot of our homelessness in Pirie is hidden,” says UnitingCare Wesley’s manager of youth homelessness services Dave Manser.
“You won’t find that stereotype of people sleeping in that open space. We have young people sleeping on friend’s couches.
“We see people when their private arrangements have broken down over time. The problem is real and private and quite hidden.”
Mr Manser was speaking at a “pop-up shop” and soup kitchen in Alexander Street to highlight Homelessness Week.
The event was observed from August 7 to 11.
Mr Manser and helpers served cups of soup and handed out bread rolls. People calling into the shop included some young Aboriginals who said they were from Ernabella.
Mayor John Rohde joined the soup queue and declared the start of Homelessness Week.
“Homelessness cannot be an accepted part of our society,” he said.
“If we work together, we can end homelessness. One in 200 people are homeless in Australia and 85 percent of them have mental illness.
“Being homeless includes sleeping rough, living in supported accommodation, living in overcrowded dwellings and temporarily staying in other households.
“They come from all walks of life.”
Mr Manser said Homelessness Australia had reported a 30-percent increase in youth homelessness.
“There is also a trend of women in their 50s and 60s becoming homeless,” he said.
Despite the demand for services, he said the area was well served with homelessness agencies.
Groups include the MId North Homelessness Collaboration of which the mayor is a member.
“I think homelessness agencies are tackling the issue head-on,” Mr Manser said.
Mr Rohde said the shop was a “huge step forward” with staff outlining services and support.
“Homelessness can happen to anyone,” he said.
“Moving away from stereotypes and generalisations about the homeless is a big step towards understanding the issues and knowing best how to help.
“My congratulations to those responsible for the shop which will give our community plenty of opportunity to learn about the network of support to help prevent homelessness.
“Homelessness Week aims to raise awareness about people in this situation and the issues they face.
“The theme is ‘action and innovation’.
“Thankfully, services continue to be funded by federal and state governments, enabling increased effort to be invested to prevent homelessness.”