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Vinnies ready to help people going through tougher times

Stress: “Everyone has a right to safe, secure and stable housing. This is not the time to pull the rug out from under the feet of Queensland’s renters.”

MANY Australians are bracing for reductions in JobSeeker and JobKeeper income, but it’s going to be tougher for some in Queensland.

From the end of this month Queensland residential tenants will lose the protection from eviction that’s been in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

All other states have extended the eviction moratorium – Tasmania until December, and New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia through to March.

Queensland Council of Social Service and Tenants Queensland, in an open letter to Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk and Queensland Housing Minister Mick de Brenni, have called for the moratorium to be extended.

More than 30 other organisations including health workers, homelessness services, unions and community groups signed the letter.

Anglicare, Lifeline, DVConnect and the Salvation Army were among them.

The St Vincent de Paul Society was not a signatory to the letter but is ready to support Queenslanders facing tough times during the pandemic.

“I guess it’s disappointing that this is the position the Queensland Government’s taken, considering the other states and the extensions they’ve offered,” the society’s Queensland chief executive officer Kevin Mercer said.

“However, I think we’ve also got to realise that at some point these things have to come to an end, and we’ve got to work, then, together to help Queenslanders doing it tough and support people through this.”

Signatories to the letter said “the Premier continues to remind us that there is a real risk of second and third waves of infection, that we cannot be complacent and that we must maintain our strong health response”.

“Keeping people safe in their homes is an essential part of this health response,” the letter said.

“The decision not to extend the eviction moratorium has real consequences for Queenslanders who are watching their worst nightmares come true.”

Tenants Queensland chief executive officer Penny Carr said many tenants had contacted them since the Government announced it wasn’t extending the moratorium.

“Tenants are terrified of what will happen,” Ms Carr said.

“A lot of them have already been told by their landlords or real estate agents that they will be kicked out.”

QCOSS chief executive officer Aimee McVeigh said the crisis was not over “and all other Australian states have recognised this by extending their moratoriums”.

“Everyone has a right to safe, secure and stable housing. This is not the time to pull the rug out from under the feet of Queensland’s renters,” Ms McVeigh said.

Mr Mercer said Vinnies knew “it’s going to be very challenging for some people”.

“And that’s what the society’s here to do, is to help people through those difficult times,” he said.

“So I’ll always encourage people who are finding themselves in those really challenging situations to reach out to us and we can provide assistance or we can advocate on their behalf with landlords or real estate agents.”

Mr Mercer said that through this crisis it was possible Vinnies would be helping people who had never faced this type of situation and never had to seek their assistance before.

“They should feel comfortable reaching out to us,” he said.

“We’ve been helping people beyond our traditional group … helping them with their payments and commitments that they have, and maybe their main income earner’s lost their job …

“We’ve been helping them out with their situations as well.”

The society’s assistance levels had been down in recent months, Mr Mercer said.

“That’s largely driven by the fact that we’ve had these supports in the economy – whether it’s the rental moratorium or JobKeeper/JobSeeker,” he said.

“Those things have helped people and supported people through those times but we’re expecting an increase and a wave coming in the next few months as those supports are starting to be pulled out.

“And we know that that’s happening on the rental moratorium; we know that’s happening with JobKeeper/JobSeeker being reset and then we’ve got future dates where they’re going to be reviewed again.”

But Vinnies will be there for anyone in need.

“We’re used to gearing up because we’ve had natural disasters and things like that in the past, and we can gear up our call centres with additional volunteers; we can gear up our support on the ground,” Mr Mercer said.

“We’re used to that stand-up-stand-down type process so I think we’re ready to take on the additional challenge of more people requiring support.”

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