Mother of two Corrine Tucker-Hunter knows first hand how homelessness and a sense of hopelessness can go hand in hand.
I had to keep telling myself things would get better, to keep my hopes up.Corrine Tucker-Hunter
So passionate is the 23-year-old about what she sees as a lack of political motivation around dealing with the issue, she refused to vote in recent state and federal elections.
"I can't vote for someone if they're not putting the community's biggest problems first," she said during Homelessness Week 2019.
"The problem just keeps building up, and to know the government is doing nothing is really sad."
She said with at least 50 people consistently on a waiting list, drastic action is needed to supply enough crisis accommodation to deal with the issue. Bega's current women's refuge has just three rooms, she said.
"The Bega Valley needs a youth refuge, a men's refuge and a bigger women's refuge," Ms Tucker-Hunter said.
"I think it's just absolutely ridiculous, because refuges are so badly needed."
South East Youth Accommodation Service's Kylie Furnell said attempts to lobby state and local government on the importance of a youth refuge have after "initial interest" faded into "nothing".
The service helps residents between 16 and 25 find housing, and Ms Furnell said innovative ideas like Speed Date Housemate, which may involve local real estate agents is one "outside the box" idea set to be tried.
"Nobody wants to grip the issue, and so many services can't speak up and have a voice," Ms Furnell said.
South East Women and Children's Services' regional manager Caroline Long said local solutions are the key to solving the issue.
"Homelessness is recognised as an issue, but communities are coming up with their own solutions, it's not going to come from government, " she said.
"People should challenge the myth there is no homelessness here, and stop victim blaming."
Ms Long and Mission Australia's program manager for Bega Valley homelessness support Donna Davis said more public housing is needed in the region, as the issue is "getting worse".
"I don't think we'll ever get rid of our waiting list for housing," Ms Davis said.
Ms Davis said Australia needs a national plan to end homelessness and a national housing strategy to deliver 500,000 social and affordable rental homes by 2030.
Ms Tucker-Hunter, who now has secure public housing, said her time in the refuge after fleeing a violent relationship was full of "depression and anxiety", and a feeling of being "stuck".
"Your mind is all over the place. You have to think about what you have and what you don't have."
She said without the help of local services finding a safe and secure home for her children would have been "impossible".
"I had to keep telling myself things would get better, to keep my hopes up," she said.
Ms Davis said common causes of homelessness include financial difficulties, housing affordability, loss of job, trauma, health issues, mental illness and domestic and family violence.
"With housing becoming less affordable in the Bega Valley, we are seeing more and more people on low incomes being pushed into homelessness," she said.
She said the issue is often "hidden" in rural and regional Australia.
"As a community, we often don't think of homelessness as an issue because we don't often see people sleeping rough in our parks or streets. But in fact, a lot of people in Bega Valley are couch surfing, staying temporarily with friends or family, or living in motels, overcrowded dwellings and even cars," she said.
"These people are experiencing what is known as 'hidden homelessness'.
"People of all ages and backgrounds can become homeless, however some people are more vulnerable to homelessness than others."
Michael Bronson from the Bega Valley's Social Justice Advocates said "vital" crisis accommodation and a "substantial increase" in social and affordable housing is needed.
"Sadly, homelessness is still very much a problem for many folks in our shire and we continue to advocate for them. We are calling for vital crisis accommodation and a substantial increase in social and affordable housing," he said.
"In addition, more needs to be done in our community to tackle the leading causes of homelessness, including housing affordability, domestic and family violence, mental health and alcohol and drug dependence."