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Growing numbers of Sydney's homeless are escaping the trauma of inner-city life by moving to neighbouring regional areas, and facing a whole new set of problems as a result.

Dr Andy Marks, a senior researcher with the St Vincent De Paul Society, has spent several months conducting in-depth interviews with people experiencing homelessness in New South Wales regional cities and towns. This week, Vinnies launched the Known Territory report, which author Dr Marks says highlights the importance of "known territory" to those without a place to call home.

“This report reveals the severity of homelessness in the Katoomba region,’’ Dr Marks said, “and it also details the challenges faced by people experiencing homelessness and how their perceptions of their situation have changed over time.”

Dr Marks said poor mental health, addiction and violence were common to all localised homeless populations in the Katoomba, Nowra, Wollongong and Newcastle areas, where homeless numbers are surging as people flea Sydney. He told the Sydney Morning Herald that in these areas, charities such as St Vincent de Paul has experienced a significant increase in demand for their services.

The report’s findings also illustrate how other aspects of homelessness related to environmental, socio-economic and cultural issues are distinct to Katoomba: yesterday, he told The Sydney Morning Herald that many people who might have found accommodation in local caravan parks are now becoming homeless, as more and more parks are sold for housing developments.

The Katoomba area is not the best place for homeless people to move, he said, highlighting factors such as the town’s significantly higher rates of mental and behavior disorders for young people than the state average – and in Katoomba, the average household income is about 60 per cent of the national average.

Dr Marks said that while no two experiences of homelessness were the same, the report confirmed that the trauma of displacement that accompanied homelessness was, to varying degrees, ameliorated by the sense of belonging a place like Katoomba provided.

Posted: Tuesday June 16, 2009

Published: Jun 16, 2009 10:13am by philippa.

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