The region's housing crisis is driving a Warrnambool single mother to desperation.
Tegan, who asked not to use her last name, has been a single mum for close to 14 years after losing her partner to cancer when her son was 20 months old and daughter just seven weeks.
She has always provided for her family, which now includes a teenaged dependent, and homelessness was not a prospect she ever thought possible until her rental home was put on the market more than nine months ago.
Almost 200 rejected property applications later, Tegan is still yet to find a rental property.
She initially split her family up, with her children living across multiple homes in Warrnambool and Port Fairy.
But that wasn't sustainable and they're now residing in Tegan's mother's two-bedroom unit.
Tegan and her mother sleep on camp mattresses on the living room floor. Her children have a bedroom each and her teenaged dependent resides at the house next door.
The family didn't celebrate Christmas last month because the heavy burden of not having a home was too much.
Tegan said the humiliation of being unable to find a rental property for her family had brought her to tears more often than not.
"I have worked two jobs for the past 10 years to provide the best I can for them," she said.
"I got promoted in September to assistant department manager which ensured financial security and means I have more time at home with my kids. However, this is the first time in my life I have felt unworthy and helpless in being able to provide a basic human right for my family."
Tegan said her family had lost almost all possessions due to a lack of storage available.
"We have no beds, no lounge setting, very little clothes and books left. My kids have lost much that is valuable to them," she said.
Despite having an unblemished rental record and enough funds to cover a four-bedroom home, the family cannot find somewhere to live.
"We are a good family, and I just want someone to give us a chance," Tegan said.
"I have endured almost 200 rejections and each time it sends us all into an even darker place. I have nothing else to give, I feel so defeated and have given up all hope."
It comes as new research shows the south-west is in the grips of a "deep rental crisis".
A report that looked into the availability of rentals across the state using data from Suburbtrends shows it is very difficult to find a rental in the Warrnambool and Southern Grampians shires and the Colac/Corangamite area.
The Well Home Loans report classes a property as vacant if it has been listed for 21 days or more.
Suburbtrends director Kent Lardner said the last Census revealed the percentage of renters in any location was about 25 per cent.
"The Warrnambool statistical area has an estimated 25,000 houses," Mr Lardner said.
"Applying the rental tenure estimate of 27 per cent for Warrnambool, the estimated current rental pool would be close to 6900 homes. Let's round that to 7000 homes in the public rental pool.
"Consider that we currently only have four rental properties listed for 21 days or more, which we would categorise as 'vacant'. Only four from 7000 rental properties are vacant. That is an absolute crisis."
The report also showed there were only two 'vacant' properties in the Southern Grampians Shire and three in the Colac, Corangamite area.
The median cost of a rental was $400 in Warrnambool and $350 in the other two areas.
Adrian Everitt knows how difficult it is to find an affordable rental.
Up until last week he was living in his car after moving to Warrnambool in December.
The published author, who has experience in the hospitality and aged care industries, has applied for at least 30 jobs.
Mr Everitt said he was very grateful to Brophy Family and Youth Services, which had provided him with a tent and a sleeping bag.
Last week he was camping for the first time instead of sleeping in his car.
"I'm able to stretch out a bit more and I can store an esky and some other camping essentials," Mr Everitt said.
Despite his housing and job issues, Mr Everitt said he was enjoying living in Warrnambool.
"The locals have been friendly and the community spirit is good," he said.
Mr Everitt said community members asked how he was and gave him tips on vacant jobs.
"Being in Warrnambool has been positive despite being homeless and living rough," he said.
Mr Everitt said he had spoken to a number of people facing similar issues.
"There is no solution in Warrnambool at the moment to homelessness," he said.
Mr Everitt said he believed there should be a community meeting held to discuss the issue and possible solutions.
Another man who has been forced to camp due to a lack of affordable rentals is Jarrod Gillespie.
He said he had applied for a number of rentals without success.
Mr Gillespie, who is working, said his budget was between $150 and $220 a week.
He said he may be forced to leave Warrnambool.
"I want to stay because I've met some good people but I'm considering leaving," Mr Gillespie said.
Well Home Loans chief executive officer Scott Spencer said it was a good time to be an investor, but a bad time to be a tenant.
"If you're an investor in a suburb that contains only three vacant rental properties, tenants have to compete hard for your property, which gives you the chance to push up rents," he said.
"Conversely, if you're a tenant, life is really tough, because it's difficult to find accommodation and you know rents are climbing fast."
South West Coast MP Roma Britnell said the issue of access to affordable housing in the region had not happened overnight.
"We have faced a housing crisis for years," Ms Britnell said.
"The number of people contacting my office trying to access accommodation and their stories of desperation at either being homeless or facing homelessness are heartbreaking.
"We do everything we can to ensure those people gain access to support but our social service organisations are overwhelmed."
She said the region was in desperate need of more social housing.
Anglicare Australia said there was an affordable housing crisis in Australia in its submission to the federal government's inquiry.
The Housing Affordability and Supply Inquiry has received submissions from a number of organisations and individuals.
"Over a million lower income households are paying housing costs which exceed the affordability benchmark of 30 per cent of household income," the submission said.
The Housing Industry Association outlines some of the issues regarding housing affordability in its submission to the inquiry.
"An inadequate supply of additional housing over many years has led to a situation where there is intense competition to secure housing, amongst limited options," the submission said.
"Competition to secure rental accommodation is similarly competitive in many markets around the country.
"The corollary of a declining rate of home ownership is that a greater number of households reside in rented accommodation.
"A constrained supply of rental accommodation has seen rental vacancy rates remain critically low. There are often long queues to attend inspections and large numbers of applicants for available properties.
"The intense competition to secure available property has led to upward pressure on rental prices."
IN OTHER NEWS:
Now just one tap with our new app: Digital subscribers now have the convenience of faster news, right at your fingertips with The Standard:
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.