A homelessness support worker has warned many people in Wagga might be "on the brink" of suffering extreme losses as the nation falls into a COVID-19 induced recession.
Peter Burgess, president of Wagga Central's St Vincent de Paul Society told The Daily Advertiser compounded pressures of drought, fires and virus is driving needs for many who have never been at risk of homelessness before.
"We now have people who have never been jobless before reaching out for our support," Mr Burgess said.
"It's not easy when you've been self-sufficient all your life to then be in a position where you have to ask for help. It's not always easy for everyone to pick up the phone and make that call."
Currently the charity is working to set up online portals that can assist in providing timely care to those who unexpectedly find themselves in need.
"The expectation is that it will get worse. Those on the margins who are living day-to-day, week-to-week, they could fall and we'll have an even bigger problem," Mr Burgess said.
"Those who are surviving in housing right now may not be able to in time. The fear is for what's to come, we need the security now before things start to deteriorate even further."
Last year, hundreds of people accessed housing support through the charity's Wagga-based Edel Quinn services. This year, Mr Burgess expects that number will be much higher.
"Across the Wagga LGA last year there was well over 100 people who came in and were found to not have had an abode for more than 12 months," Mr Burgess said.
"It's something we often forget. You just don't see them, or you might see some camping by the river or in Wilks Park. if you go looking for them, you will find them."
Each year, when the mercury falls below zero overnight, Mr Burgess's concern is compounded. With many finding themselves out of work this year, the concern is even greater.
"At this time of the year people survive by couch surfing," he said.
"A bloke I met recently, he's in housing now, but he survived by sleeping in his Kombi for three years, showering once a week in places like Wilks Park."
To once again tackle the problem of "hidden homelessness", the state government has this week announced $36 million in funding to set up the Together Home project.
Aimed at transitioning the homeless from the streets into private rental arrangements, Mr Burgess said it is an initiative that has been in the pipeline for the past decade.
But in the midst of the compounding COVID-19 recession, Mr Burgess admits the funding will be well needed right now.
"The cost to society of having people without homes is actually more expensive than it is to look after them when you talk about all of the health costs," Mr Burgess said.
"The problem is people forget that they are human, they treat them differently. But they are human lives and we value that."