When Kayla Johnson, 21, found her work hours slashed almost overnight due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she experienced a familiar, unpleasant feeling.
"I was homeless straight out of high school, when I was 18," she said.
"Being homeless previously, it was almost the same anxiety level... Not having the stability that I was used to."
Ms Johnson lives in community housing in Wollongong, obtained via Southern Youth and Family Services' social housing programs.
Her rent is subsidised.
Previously, Ms Johnson was working about 58 hours per fortnight in her permanent casual hospitality job.
"When COVID hit, that dropped down to 15 hours a fortnight," she said.
At one point, as her partner's health issues meant he lost work, she accessed payday loans to help pay bills.
"The anxiety and depression came back a lot," she said.
"It impacted my relationship, my house, my family, everybody.
"I contacted my job employment agency to let them know my hours were reduced and that I needed another job because I was financially struggling.
"They tried to get me something, but there was not much going because of COVID.
"And some of them, they wanted five years' experience, qualifications, and being 21, only out of school for a few years, I don't have that much experience."
As restrictions have lifted, Ms Johnson's work hours are on the increase, "but it's not back to where it was". She's also picked up some casual cleaning work.
However, she said they were often "just scraping by".
Regional areas across NSW are facing significant spikes in social disadvantage due to the COVID-19 recession, according to new economic modelling from the NSW Council of Social Service.
The report models the impact of rising unemployment by June 2021 when JobKeeper has ceased and if JobSeeker returns to its previous rate.
The modelling says by June 2021 the Illawarra will see increases in housing stress (by 11.5 per cent), homelessness (6.5 per cent), suicide (3.3 per cent) and domestic violence (0.7 per cent).
Ms Johnson offered some advice to those who had lost work due to the pandemic.
"Keep your mental health as positive as you can, and try and reconnect with other networks that are hiring.
"Don't just stick to the one network. Definitely spread yourself out there and try and be open-minded to other jobs and different experiences, because money's money, and an income's an income.
"Coming into Christmas I feel it's even harder for a lot of people that have mortgages and things like that.
"I'm lucky that I live in community housing and my rent is subsidised.
"I don't have kids... But I look at these other day-to-day expenses that I don't have and I struggled, (so) people who live with more would be struggling a whole lot more than I am."
SYFS CEO Narelle Clay said going forward, measures that needed to be taken were ensuring the social security benefit is adequate, creating jobs, and more social housing.
"We have to create more social housing to lift people out of homelessness, get them into affordable housing and to ensure they're ready and capable of stabilising their lives," she said.
Ms Clay said the pandemic has highlighted the problems caused by casualisation of the workforce.
"On the one hand, you have employers and people saying we need a more flexible workforce," she said.
"But people need security and safety to be able to fulfil many of the expectations we have of the community - getting loans, paying regular rent - for all of those things you need regular work.
"So I think COVID has shone a light on it.
"While I think the government did a reasonable job at designing JobFinder, JobKeeper and putting the rates up, casuals got left out. Casuals were not factored in well enough, and were the most hurt."
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