It has been a long time in the making, but Wagga man Marko Manovic will soon find stability and a new home again after being homeless, on and off, since he was a teenager.
“It doesn’t discriminate – I had a good job before, had a family and a nice life, but it was all turned upside down," Mr Manovic said.
The 38-year-old found himself homeless again after being released from prison.
“For me, to come out of prison, I didn’t have friends and family to lean on.
"So homelessness became more of a problem.”
He will soon move into a residential property. Prior, he had support accommodation at St Vincent de Paul’s Edel Quinn.
Mr Manovic said that without the “stepping stone” of services like Edel Quinn, he would have fallen further.
“These guys gave me an overnight stay out of the blue and then four weeks for free,” he said.
It doesn’t discriminate – I had a good job before, had a family and a nice life, but it was all turned upside down.Marko Manovic
His case is one of thousands in the spotlight during Homelessness Week (August 6–12), which aims to end the crisis nationally.
On Monday, the initiative was launched with the ‘free clothes’ lunch at Edel Quinn, which included a market setup of free clothes and personal items for those doing it tough.
Earlier this year, census data showed that homeless residents in Australia rose 4.6 per cent to 116,000 in 2016.
NSW recorded the largest spike in nationwide, rising from 28,000 to 37,700 in that year, with an estimated 1500 homeless people across the Riverina.
Nathalie Prentice, team leader of accommodation at Edel Quinn, said that meeting demand was “becoming more and more difficult”.
While the census shows that homeless people decreased from 154 to 107 in the Wagga LGA in 2016, Ms Prentice said Edel Quinn’s services were “inundated and running at full capacity most of the time” in the past 12 months.
“It’s [demand of services] been escalating, which is quite sad, really,” she said.
“People present themselves for help due to various reasons – from loss of employment to financial issues to medical reasons.”
She said that about 20–30 people turn up for their free community lunches every Tuesday–Wednesday.
“Those numbers are quite high,” Ms Prentice said.
Sharing a story similar to Mr Manovic is 44-year-old Pritchard Vale, who was at risk of homelessness after also being released from prison after four years.
“I had no support on the outside so Edel Quinn caseworkers came to see me at prison to assess me,” Mr Vale said.
He attended Edel Quinn with just one set of clothes.
“They gave me hope,” Mr Vale said.
Ms Prentice said that because they serve the Riverina, the number of clients were “quite high”.
The 2018 Homelessness Week theme of ‘Ending homelessness together’ is one that Ms Prentice shares.
“One thing I’d like to say is that homelessness can happen to anyone,” she said.
“It can happen to any of us – there's no face to homelessness.
“Never judge someone walking through the door for help – you don’t know what trauma they may have gone through.”
Never judge someone walking through the door for help – you don’t know what trauma they may have gone through.Nathalie Prentice, team leader at Edel Quinn
Similar to Edel Quinn, Argyle Housing Wagga said its housing services cannot always meet demand from those who are homeless or are at risk of homelessness.
“Of the properties that we manage in Wagga, 213 are allocated to social housing,” CEO Wendy Middleton aid.
“In many cases, that is not enough compared to the list of people waiting for or needing social housing solutions.
Homelessness Week in Wagga will also be marked with the Triple H Homelessness Week Expo at Victory Memorial Gardens this Friday at 10am–12pm.
More than 15 state-based and local services – including Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network, Sisters Housing, Tumut Regional Family Services, Intereach, Wagga Family Support and St Vincent De Paul – will be part of the exhibition, which is about creating awareness of homelessness to reduce the crisis.
The Riverina Police District will also donate their secondhand boots to Mission Australia to deliver to those doing it tough.
If you or someone you know is seeking help, please contact Link2Home: 1800 152 152.