St John’s Care tackles homelessness


It provides emergency relief to rent-stressed and homeless Canberrans. This is critical care as housing affordability in the Canberra-Queanbeyan regions is experiencing hardship.

St John’s Care is a supporter of Anglicare Australia’s 8th Rental Affordability Snapshot. The report shows a serious shortage of rental houses affordable for low income earners in Australia. The recent report found that, at a national level, only six per cent of the 67,651 dwellings surveyed on the first weekend in April were suitable for any of the 10 selected households in receipt of government benefits. This statistic is down from seven per cent in 2016.

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Director of the St John’s Care (SJC) in Reid, Canberra, Stuart Davis-Meehan shares salient points on homelessness and rental stress in his May article ‘SJC clients experience rental stress. His article addresses local residential locations with low affordability for rent-stressed clients.

Mr Davis-Meehan is a former Australian social researcher with decades of experience analyzing and interpreting research findings to draw out points which property professionals and policy analysts need to take on notice.

St John's Care
Main meal at St John’s Care Friday lunches.

In his day job with St John’s Care, Mr Davis-Meehan regularly sees clients seeking emergency relief from inflated rents and for assistance with payments for telephone and electricity bills. “The only Government funding that St John’s Care receives is in the form of Federal emergency relief funding and it is all used to provide financial assistance to clients” he says. Mr Davis-Meehan says the purpose of the Snapshot report is to highlight the lived experience of people and families on low incomes trying to find a home in the private rental market.

“The Snapshot data was collected on 1-2 April 2017 from rental listings available across Australia. A suitable rental was deemed to be one which took up less than 30% of the household’s income, a commonly used benchmark of affordability.”

St John's Care
Stuart Davis-Meehan in red jumper with SJC volunteers.

National, metropolitan and regional data are included in the Snapshot. Two demographic centres are highlighted by Mr Davis-Meehan: the Australian Capital Territory and Queanbeyan (NSW).

St John's Care
Dessert with ice cream

Mr Davis-Meehan says the 2017 research findings indicates there were no affordable and appropriate rental properties for single or couples on Youth Allowance, Parenting payments or Newstart Allowances in April. The report only identified two properties were available for single people over 21 years of age on the Disability Support Pension.

He says that given the “majority of clients that come into our Emergency Relief Centre are on these benefits, it is clear that the private rental market is just not an option for most of those seeking a place to call home.

“Indeed, the data also suggests that many of our existing clients are living in quite high rental stress. In addition to the lack of availability of affordable housing in the private rental market, I understand that there is up to a two year wait for public housing.”

Mr Davis-Meehan says there are “so many people living in our community who are struggling financially. They often have to opt to pay their rent instead of buying food for their family.”

As we lead into winter, he asks everyone to “take a moment to think about those who are homeless or suffering rental stress in our city.”

Mr Davis-Meehan’s held his job with the SJC for almost two years and gives what he can to others. He asks that everyone consider providing something to St John’s Care to meet the wish list of the homeless and rent-stressed: toilet rolls, pasta sauce, biscuits, soap, or children’s lunch snacks.

St John's Care
Volunteers in the lunch kitchen at St John’s Care in Reid, Canberra.

On the first Friday of the month from 12:00pm-2:00pm St John’s Care in Reid puts on a community lunch for free. It’s a two or three course meal and everyone is served a nutritious, home cooked meal. The lunch guests may sit indoors at tables for coffee and conversation or enjoy their meal al fresco on the lawns in front of historic St John’s Church.

“Our lunch visitors have an opportunity to strengthen their sense of connectedness and community with others who attend for a hot meal. On average, the St John’s Care serves between 75 and 100 meals per month,” said Mr Davis-Meehan.

Stuart Davis-Meehan is Director of St John’s Care 45 Constitution Avenue, Reid, 2612 (located within the St John’s Church Precinct). GPO Box 219, Canberra, 2601.
Telephone: 0262487771. The office of St John’s Care is open 9.30 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. Monday to Friday.

Written by Fiona Rothchilds with Stuart Davis-Meehan 2017 original text.
Photographic copyright Fiona Rothchilds 2017 with acknowledgement of St John’s Care 2017 photograph of volunteer group with food provisions.

Versions of this article are also published at:
5 May 2017:

8 May 2017: