HOMELESSNESS is a very real prospect for people on Newstart or Youth Allowance in the north west region.
Not one property is affordable or suitable for a single person on Newstart or Youth Allowance, and affordable homes are on the decline for elderly people on the pension, an Anglicare study finds.
The not-for-profit organisation looked at how many properties were available for rent on the weekend of March 23, and how many of those that people on Centrelink benefits could afford.
"What the federal government needs to do immediately is increase Newstart by $75 a week and Commonwealth Rental Assistance by $40 a fortnight," Anglicare regional manager Claire Dunlop said.
"That's not a lot, it's still way beneath the poverty line but it is something."
There are challenges unique to Tamworth, where electricity prices are the highest in the state and rent increases to an average of $316 per week.
That's not a lot, it's still way beneath the poverty line but it is something.Claire Dunlop
Relentless drought has forced a number of families who previously supported themselves to seek financial support from the federal government, Ms Dunlop estimates there are more than 300 people on her books at the moment.
"It's particularly difficult for those on low income support payments and the impact of drought has brought with it a decrease in employment," she said.
"Homelessness in this region doesn't look like it does in Sydney, it's more like couch-surfing.
"It's a real possibility that people are finding themselves in, or in a Housing NSW home where people might find themselves in a home situation where they feel unsafe because of the environment."
For a single parent with two children on a parenting payment, just 1 per cent of properties in the region are affordable.
Only 18 per cent of the properties available would be suitable for an elderly person on the aged pension.
The maximum payment an elderly couple can receive from the federal government is $61.30 each a fortnight.
An increase to minimum payments is necessary, Ms Dunlop said, but beyond that a holistic approach is needed to keep struggling people sheltered.
"People need to ask for help, some people are ashamed to ask for help if they haven't been in that position before," she said.
"We know that asking for help is such a huge leap but the government must address this housing affordability crisis.
"People need quality social housing and the government needs to support opportunities for well-paid employment in regional areas and encourage people into the workforce."
Only 132 properties were available that income support recipients could afford.