THERE is an unseen side to Coffs Harbour – an unknown number of hidden faces in fact.
They sleep at friends’ houses, surf between their relatives’ couches or seek shelter in abandoned buildings.
Together they make up the city’s burgeoning ranks of the homeless.
The secretary of Homelessness NSW, Meena Johnson, who is based in Coffs Harbour, says these people are referred to as the hidden homeless, secondary homeless or those at-risk.
In metropolitan areas the problem of homelessness is evident with people sleeping on park benches and street corners but in regional areas like Coffs Harbour the hidden face of homelessness means statistics are skewed.
This census night (August 9) Ms Johnson is calling on the hidden homeless to stand up and be counted for the sake of accurate statistics.
“There is a high number of people and families who are or will be facing homelessness and we need the government to know that the stats are actually higher than shown for this region,” Ms Johnson said.
“The census data is designed to identify trends and issues and government funding is based on these statistics so it’s important that people without a home write ‘none’ to question 10 which asks for the location of where they live.”
“My address: Diversity in homelessness” is the theme of this year’s National Homeless Person’s Week August 1-7.
Ms Johnson says the number of people she sees who are seeking housing support has increased by more than 20% in the past financial year, up to an estimated 1000 clients.
A barbecue lunch will be held for all Coffs Harbour residents who are doing it tough and the Coffs Harbour Housing and Support Forum collected food and personal care items which will be donated to those in need.
The barbecue will be tomorrow from noon-2pm at Rotary Park.