Crushing mortgage payments and mounting rents are pushing more residents to the brink of homelessness, according to the latest figures from Equity Economics.
The report shows that housing stress within the Riverina has jumped for renters and mortgage-holders alike, as more people find themselves unable to afford to continue living in their own homes.
Since the beginning of the pandemic the region has seen an 8 per cent increase in housing stress, a 6 per cent increase in homelessness, and a 7.6 increase in unemployment.
The number of two-income households among mortgage-holders has fallen substantially, leading to a corresponding increase in the number of one-income and zero-income households.
Children living in low-to-no-income households will bear the brunt of housing stress, researchers warn, with the report's models predicting around a 12-point reduction in Riverina NAPLAN scores next year.
That comes as no surprise to Vinnies Central Wagga president Peter Burgess, who said many parents could not even afford to pay for their children's lunch or a proper school uniform this year.
"If you turn up to school without a uniform or you turn up with a dirty rag because it's the only one you've got, it's hard for the kids to get acceptance within the cohort and it's hard for them to engage in the learning process," Mr Burgess said.
"Even giving a kid a clean uniform can make a substantial difference."
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Mr Burgess said for many parents it was the first time in their lives that they had been unable to provide for their own children.
"We are now seeing a new cohort of people who we haven't seen prior to COVID," Mr Burgess said.
"Probably around a third of the people coming in now are people we haven't seen before, and a lot of them want food support or help with the rent."
Mission Australia's Riverina leader Daniel Strickland said JobKeeper and JobSeeker had been a lifeline for young families, who were now struggling after their payments were cut in September.
"People made good use of that extra money: we heard stories from families that were able to buy their children new school shoes, haircuts, everyday things that most of us take for granted," Mr Strickland said.
"Some people were able to get up on rental arrears, and we also saw during that period there was lesser demand on our services. Now with JobKeeper and a JobSeeker being reduced, we're really starting to see an increase in demand across the board."
The number of Riverina children classified as "at-risk" has risen by 7.4 per cent.
Young adults attempting to enter the local jobs market are also doing it tough, with a 7 per cent increase in those aged between 20 to 24 suffering "severe" mental distress.
Fears of increased domestic violence were widely reported, however that has not yet been born out in the Riverina figures, with only a 0.3 per cent increase in police reports.
In terms of housing stress, Wagga is still faring substantially better than its metropolitan counterparts, which were by far the worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
In Sydney's Inner South city region there was a staggering 86.2 per cent increase in housing stress as well as a 40 per cent increase in homelessness.
Across the state, there has been a 24 per cent increase in residents who are currently suffering from housing stress.