There are calls for urgent action to address Katanning’s housing shortage as gaps in WA’s homelessness services are thrust into the spotlight in State Parliament. Katanning has been highlighted as a regional centre suffering from a lack of homelessness support as part of a parliamentary inquiry into the financial administration of homelessness services which started in November last year. Great Southern service providers say more transitional housing is needed, telling the Herald that some families have been forced to leave Katanning to find support. The parliamentary committee heard from Anglicare WA chief executive Mark Glasson and director of community services Philippa Boldy about their views in a hearing held in Perth on May 25. Mr Glasson told the committee that funding for homelessness services in WA was concentrated in the Perth metropolitan area. “What we’ve seen recently in our regional services is the lack of any response to homelessness,” he said. “Our people, our hazard support workers and our other service providers, when someone appears with an issue around housing, over the last 18 months for the first time ever, they have had nothing to offer.” Mr Glasson said the availability of affordable housing in regional WA had “completely tanked”. “So what we see is that people in the regions get a much more ad-hoc response to their service needs,” he said. “There just aren’t the resources and it requires a lot more agility from our people, and the challenge that we have, of course, is there is no one there.” When asked by shadow housing minister Steve Martin about the housing-first approach to homelessness Anglicare is using in Bunbury, Ms Boldy noted some clients were being forced to travel hundreds of kilometres to access services. “What we are finding is that the neighbouring communities ... the Manjimups and perhaps further afield places like Katanning, there is almost no availability of homelessness support in places like that,” she said. “People are having to travel to the larger centres ... to be able to seek support and services, which obviously contributes to the social issues they might be experiencing.” The Rental Affordability Snapshot report published by Anglicare earlier this year found there were no rental properties in the South West and Great Southern regions which were affordable for a single person on JobSeeker or Youth Allowance, and there was only one affordable property for a single person on an age or disability support pension. Anglicare Great Southern senior housing support worker Tamara Owens said they were seeing more working families in the Katanning region experiencing homelessness. “The most common emerging issues we are seeing are rental properties being sold and the families who had been renting have no other housing options due to the lack of supply across all housing streams,” she said. “Some of our clients are applying for over 30 properties without success.” Ms Owens said an increasing number of locals were being forced to leave Katanning to seek support. “They’re leaving their jobs, their social supports, and if they have children, taking them out of school and away from friends,” she said. “It’s leading to financial stress, declining mental health and increased pressure on family relationships. “Once in another community, it takes time to connect into the local services, and more often than not, they’re again on waiting lists to access services.” Katanning Regional Emergency Accommodation Centre manager Sheralee Buss said the situation for those seeking homelessness support services in Katanning was not improving. “We still get a big portion of people who come in due to family and domestic violence, but a lot of it now is people who are dealing with homelessness,” she said. Ms Buss supported Ms Owens’ call for more transitional housing for those between emergency accommodation and long-term housing options. “Without more housing, there is not a lot more we can do,” Ms Buss said. “We need to get people off the streets and away from couch-surfing and situations where they are bunched up with two to three families living under one roof.” Shadow housing minister Steve Martin a “perfect storm” had hit homelessness services in regional areas. “There is a long public housing waitlist, there is a tough private rental market and the cost of living is increasing, which is leading people at the bottom of the rental market to a really tough place,” he said. “What we’re being told in the inquiry is that service providers are being stretched to the point in the regions where they can’t find staff and are constrained with resources.” Mr Martin called on the State Government to follow through on its election promise to increase public housing stock, including through the spot purchasing program. “They also need to better maintain their stock,” Mr Martin said. “I talk to people in many country towns who say they know public housing is available but it needs to be maintained. That should be an increased priority for them.”. Data from the Real Estate Institute of WA shows Katanning recorded the seventh highest growth in median house prices for a regional town, increasing by 26.5 per cent last year. On Tuesday, realestate.com.au had two rental properties listed in Katanning for under $400 per week. The Department of Communities was contacted for comment but did not respond prior to deadline.