WIMMERA people in crisis are being forced to wait up to four months for emergency housing.

Wimmera Uniting Care has spent $59,000 from a Housing Establishment Fund in the past eight months to ease the housing crisis.

But chief executive Wendy Middleton said more money and more housing were urgently needed.

Ms Middleton said clients came from all walks of life, with many forced to couch surf until more permanent accommodation could be found.

The organisation saw 140 clients seeking housing in May.

“Client entry point contact at Horsham and Stawell consisted of 325 contacts via telephone calls, interview appointments and drop-ins,” she said.

“Forty-one per cent of clients were aged between 26 and 55, 23 per cent were aged 16 to 25 and 53 per cent of clients were male.”

Ms Middleton said 20 clients in the Horsham area were awaiting transitional or crisis accommodation, but there was an anticipated three to four month wait.

“There are also 21 clients awaiting housing support, which seeks to determine the circumstances of a person’s homelessness and develop strategies to get them into suitable long term accommodation,” she said. “But clients awaiting this support should expect to wait four to eight weeks for a service to be available.”

Ms Middleton said there was a community perception that homelessness affected people from low socio-economic backgrounds. But she said this was not the case and many Wimmera people were struggling.

“People become homeless for a whole range of reasons alcohol, drug or gambling issues, mental illness or family violence,” she said.

“But homelessness can also occur because of general hardship.

“Families are finding it really difficult to make ends meet and it could be that they can’t afford to pay their rent, are given a notice to vacate and have nowhere else to go.”

Ms Middleton said there were a lot of older people and families couch surfing and staying with friends and relatives because they did not have a home.

“There is a perception that it is people from low income families who become homeless, but there are lots of middle class families affected,” she said.

Ms Middleton said the $59,000 assisted clients with rent in advance, paying bonds, rental arrears, removals and storage and crisis accommodation.

“We have also spent an additional $6502 of Target 365 Horsham homeless campaign funds assisting 20 clients with crisis and emergency accommodation,” she said.

Horsham business and community groups donated the Target 365 money to provide shelter.

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