New figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show the number of people experiencing homelessness in the Bega Valley has risen.
Census data from 2016 released on Wednesday suggests 114 people were homeless across the shire, up from 104 people in 2011.
Nationally, the 2016 census estimated 116,427 were homeless on the night of counting.
The Bega-Tathra region has the highest rate of homelessness on the South Coast, counting 47 people in 2016.
Mission Australia area manager for South East NSW and ACT Daniel Strickland said this is due to a concentration of services in Bega.
“The majority of people experiencing homelessness in our area will always congregate in Bega, because it is where vital services like health care and Centrelink are,” he said.
While Mr Strickland considers the number frustratingly high, it is down from the 2011 census figures that counted 64 homeless people in the Bega-Tathra area.
“That reduction is a testament to local services and community support in our region,” he said.
The most disappointing figure in the 2016 census data for Mr Strickland was the number of vacant houses across the Bega Valley.
“A third of properties were not occupied on the night of the 2016 count,” he said.
“There must be something we can do to make them available to people, especially during winter, to reduce the risk of homelessness.”
The data also shows a change in where homeless people on the South Coast are sleeping at night.
In 2011, The most likely place for homeless people to sleep was in supported accommodation for the homeless, but in 2016 it was most common for homeless people to seek shelter temporarily in other private households.
In the space of five years, the number of homeless people “couch surfing” at private dwellings on the South Coast doubled, from 48 in 2011, to 96 in 2016.
“The only supported accommodation we provide in the Bega Valley is the women’s refuge, that is why people have to turn to couch surfing,” Ms Strickland said.
He said young people and older women are at the highest risk of homelessness and investment in new housing and rental assistance would ease the burden of homelessness, as well as addressing displacement caused by family violence or prison.