THE plight of homeless people in the region was opened up to the public in Peel St yesterday to mark National Homeless Persons Week.
Sleeping bags lay at the front of Ray Walsh House, surrounded by cardboard heads inscribed with the stories of clients who local homelessness services have assisted.
The stall was held by the North West Aboriginal Specialist Homeless Service Project (NWASP) and Rural Homelessness New England to raise awareness of homelessness and break the stereotypes associated with it.
One story told of a man who had lost his good job due to funding cuts. He subsequently lost his home and he, his wife and their three kids were forced to move between family members’ and friends’ houses, sometimes even sleeping in the car.
Another was about a 19-year-old who suffered from a mental illness and struggled to find a permanent home as a result.
Rebecca Reading, from Rural Homelessness, said there was a stereotype that homelessness only affected those with such issues as alcoholism or drug addiction, but it could affect people from all walks of life.
She said much of the community was also unaware of the extent of the problem, and that refuges were nearly always full.
According to the 2006 census, the rate of homelessness in the New England North West was 58 people per 100,000, compared to 42 per 100,000 in NSW as a whole.
NWASP co-ordinator Sara Byrnes said this was because a lot of people experiencing homelessness “couch-surfed” between family and friends’ houses, or stayed in such places as caravan parks.