The homeless are paying between $300 and $400 per week for a tent site in Geraldton, a social worker has claimed.
St Vincent de Paul Society Geraldton president Dulcie Valenti also warned more people would be forced to live on Geraldton streets or in their cars as rental prices in general continue to climb.
According to REIWA, in the months of March, April and May 2014, the average weekly household rental payment in the Geraldton-Greenough area is $350 — only $21 more than some tent sites in Geraldton.
Mrs Valenti said the growing demand for emergency accommodation, financial and food relief had clients on a three-week waiting list.
“Being forced to live on the beach or in the bush is the reality for the homeless and it will be a growing issue in Geraldton if nothing changes,” she said.
“We help with financial affairs, but the number of people seeking help to pay amenity bills and rent has increased by so much we have people booked three weeks ahead to help with their financial struggles.
“The amount of people genuinely needing help for bills is doubling — the rent is the killer.”
Mrs Valenti said the issue could begin to be remedied if the homeless had access to empty houses in Geraldton.
“If state housing built more homes for people or people were able to accommodate some of the empty houses and buildings in town, it would be a big help,” she said.
“The Department of Housing needs to go through how many empty houses are around town.
St Vincent de Paul is not the only relief organisation running dry.
Foodbank Geraldton has felt the pinch since January 2014 and manager Pat Hodges claimed the demand for affordable food had inclined significantly.
"The demand on us has been enormous just over this past month — the amount of people with food insecurity is up by 10-15 per cent,” she said.
"We are struggling to help people and unfortunately it’s going to get worse.
“I believe if people have no way of supporting themselves, crime — especially theft — will increase and people will start to look for food out the back of supermarkets just to be able to get a meal.”