"Sarah's" story isn't unique on the Sunshine Coast, but the issue isn't getting enough attention.

'No votes in it': Young people sleeping on mean streets

IT IS getting late and "Sarah" is tired, cold and scared. She is looking for a place to sleep - somewhere warm, safe and out of the weather.

Wrapped tightly in an old leopard-print vinyl trench coat, she heads toward the showgrounds and one of the empty pavilions.

She is hungry but tonight will be another night she goes without food as the meagre benefit she gets from the government ran out a couple of days ago.

Sarah could be any one of the many young vulnerable people living hard on the streets of our large cities. However, she is a 16-year-old child of the Sunshine Coast and calls Nambour home.

She grew up in a fairly happy household, but her parents really never got on together and eventually split. After her father left, her life changed.

She says life at the time consisted of couch surfing. After a couple of confrontations, she found living on the streets was safer.

"I met up with a group of homeless kids and we have become a bit of a family - we look out for one another," she says.

Integrated Family and Youth Services' Paul Morton (back) says Jordan Miletec now has the skills to take his next step in life.
Integrated Family and Youth Services' Paul Morton (back) says Jordan Miletec now has the skills to take his next step in life. Russell Phipps

Integrated Family and Youth Services representative Paul Morton says Sarah's story is not unique as there are many young people like her finding it hard to survive on the Coast.

"People don't realise and politicians brush over the issue that there are a very large number of children living below the poverty line," Mr Morton says.

He says this election is all about taxes, immigration and jobs.

"You would be hard-pressed to get a politician to talk about disadvantaged youths," he says.

"It's not that they don't care, it's just that there are no votes in it."

Mr Morton says poverty is the result of the cost of living continually eroding income, with those on benefits or low income being the hardest hit.

"Since the late 1980s the Sunshine Coast has grown in popularity, which means less available housing, forcing rent up," he says.

He says whereas groups like his were once able to put people up in cheap housing, hotels and caravans, those days are gone.

"Now a lot of people can't get their foot in the door, as there is no longer any affordable rental accommodation available," he says.

Mr Morton believes this is just the start.

"With wage growth barely above inflation and the constant increase in food and other essentials, more and more people are being forced to the edge," he says.

In 2017, research by the University of NSW revealed that unemployment payments fell short of meeting the weekly costs of housing, food, basic healthcare and transport.

Nationally, it found that a single person needed at least $433 per week and a family $940 to cover the cost of basics.

In this year's pre-budget submission to the Federal Government, Anglicare Australia called for an immediate increase of $75 to Newstart and Youth Allowance.

Greens candidate for Fairfax Sue Etheridge says her party has tried repeatedly to get Newstart raised by at least $75 a fortnight.

"The Newstart payment has not increased in real terms since 1994, and currently sits at around $40 a day for young and single people," Ms Etheridge says.

Should more be done to help the Sunshine Coast's homeless population?

This poll ended on 13 June 2019.

Current Results

Yes, definitely.

86%

No, there's already plenty being done.

5%

I'm not sure.

8%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

On three occasions last year, the Greens Senators and independent Senator Tim Storer put forward a motion to increase Newstart.

The government was able to defeat all three motions with the help of Labor and minor parties.

At the time, Liberal Senator Anne Ruston said her party was proud of its policies in regards to the unemployed.

"The Coalition Government knows the best form of welfare is a job," Ms Ruston says.

PM Scott Morrison also defended the decision to leave Newstart untouched.

"Newstart is not intended to be a payment you live on. It supports you while you get yourself back into work," he says.

Despite his party's vote on the Newstart motions, Labor candidate for Fisher Daniel Parsell says youth unemployment on the Coast was a very important issue.

"If not addressed, it can become a generational or even inter-generational problem," Mr Parsell says.

Mr Morton has never seen the level of poverty he is witnessing now.

"I am watching children grow up in conditions that I never thought were possible," he says.

"People are continually having to make the decision to either buy petrol, pay bills or put food on the table."

Jordan Miletec considers himself one of the lucky ones.

After he graduated from high school, despite trying, he couldn't find a job.

"After about a year and a half drifting from one job interview to another, IFYS offered me a position in Push Productions," he says.

He says Paul and IFYS have given him a chance to gain skills and a sense of worth.

"There are many kids out there with nothing," Jordan says.

"They are on this merry-go-round going nowhere."



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