Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to be over-represented in homelessness statistics, a new report reveals.
More than one quarter, 28 per cent, of all homelessness service clients in Australia identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander in the 2020-2021 financial year.
This equates to 810 clients per 10,000 Indigenous population nationally compared with 80 non-Indigenous clients per 10,000 people.
He is ringing me up on the phone, crying, saying can I get him a house?Karen Heap, BADAC chief executive
Victoria's Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative chief executive Karen Heap said she was hearing from many people who had been kicked out of the rental market in Ballarat and needed a house urgently.
"It is not doable in any shape or form... Rents are so high and demand is huge," she said.
"The pandemic has been a huge factor in the past two years. I think we are seeing homelessness more in our community now which is disturbing.
"We (BADAC) don't have any special means of getting homes for people, we have to go through mainstream rental properties like anyone else."
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Specialist Homelessness Services annual report 2020-2021 released on Tuesday reveals 67 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander were returning clients.
This is higher than the for non-Indigenous people at 60 per cent.
More than half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander homelessness service clients, 52 per cent, were under the age of 25.
"For young Aboriginal people, they don't come with references or good wages, it is even harder for them to get housing," Ms Heap said.
"I had a 21-year-old man ring me last week. He had a house, decided in his good heart he would invite some friends who were homeless into his home, they did the wrong thing and he was kicked out.
"He has come away without a reference. He is now staying with a friend in Ararat but they have no running water, it is really just a roof over their head.
"He is ringing me up on the phone, crying, saying can I get him a house?"
Ms Heap said statistics on young people experiencing or at risk of homelessness could be an under-representation because many were couch surfing without seeking the support of services.
There are currently 20 young people on BADAC's housing waiting list.
Over the past 10 years the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander homelessness service clients nationally has increased by 5.9 per cent per year.
New South Wales had the highest number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island homelessness clients in 2020-2021 and Victoria had the highest rate of clients.
Victoria's rate was 1,700 clients per 10,000 Indigenous people, compared to 690 per 10,000 in New South Wales.
BADAC runs an emergency accommodation program, providing motel accommodation as an urgent response.
The organisation also runs a housing program with 39 houses in Ballarat, but it is unfunded by government, so relies on donations and any surplus in the budget to pull funds.
One BADAC program provides accommodation for young people, giving them a rental history, which is often a big barrier to securing private rentals.
Ms Heap said BADAC's long-term vision is to generate revenue to fund the housing program, so the organisation is not always reliant on government funding.
"We need to have our own self determination and sustainability," she said.
Ms Heap said a holistic approach to providing support was important to address all complex factors contributing to homelessness.
"You can't just put someone in a house. They need support with all the things that come along with it and programs that help people stay in the rental market," she said.
Ms Heap said prevention work also needed to address the high unemployment rate for Aboriginal people.
The new report reveals 37 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander homelessness services clients said they had experienced family violence.
Thirty-one per cent experienced mental health issues and 14 per cent said they had drug and alcohol issues.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data from the 2016 Census shows home ownership rates among the Aboriginal community, at 13 per cent, are much lower than the wider population, at 36 per cent.
Fifty per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Ballarat rent their homes, compared to 25 per cent of wider Ballarat residents.
"The rental prices are out of some people's reaches and that is not fair. How are we going to house these people? People need help," Ms Heap said.