HELPING OTHERS: Noelene Shepherd, Pastor Jim Bennett and Joylene Tidmarsh at The South Burnett Pantry.
HELPING OTHERS: Noelene Shepherd, Pastor Jim Bennett and Joylene Tidmarsh at The South Burnett Pantry. Rose Hamilton-Barr

Rate of regional homelessness 15 times national average

THE rate of regional homelessness is almost 15 times the national average, with figures showing the South Burnett region ranked at number 84 of the 329 regions within Australia.

Research conducted by Launch Housing and RMIT University found higher rates of homelessness within indigenous Australian communities, with some of the worst cases found in the Northern Territory and far north Queensland.

South Burnett Pantry general manager James Bennett has worked with the homeless and those in poverty for almost 40 years and said he believed homelessness was due to financial difficulties and personal upbringing.

"Some of them are just raised in families without education and without work ethic and I think self-worth has a big part in it," Mr Bennett said.

"I think a lot of people lose hope and they become a self-fulfilling prophecy."

According to Homelessness Australia, high rates of homelessness has been directly linked to accommodation issues, financial difficulties, domestic violence and relationship issues and health reasons.

The organisation reported 17.3% of those affected were under the age of 12, with the 25-34 year-old age gap coming in close behind at 16.6%.

In his time dealing with the homeless, Mr Bennett said the process to recovery was a slow one and sometimes backfired.

"The only way I know is to help them one at a time, get to know them and figure out what makes them tick," Mr Bennett said.

"We've saved a few people by getting them involved with volunteering and they get some dignity back and get a job.

"I get taken for a ride and get used and you just have to come to terms with that's going to happen and you're not going to win with everyone.

"That being said, I've seen a lot of things that really encourage me and I've seen a lot of people set free, it's the sort of thing that keeps you going."

He said the cycle had to be broken, but it was a different process with each case.

"I don't think there's a quick fix; I think it needs people who will invest the time," Mr Bennett said.

"I've got a hope for broken people.

"It's frustrating and very time consuming but that's where my heart is."

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