A long-time Byron shire youth worker has accused the writer of an article on homeless youth camps in Byron Bay of glossing over the ‘shameful’ truth.
The article Life in Byron’s Squatter Camps appeared in last week’s Byron Shire Echo and Echonetdaily.
It quoted a local former homeless resident Terry as saying, the squatters could be divided into two groups: ‘ones who choose that lifestyle, and ones who can’t genuinely find a place.’
A second commenter, Charlie, suggested, ‘Some are [drugs] them recreationally and for spiritual reasons, like taking magic mushrooms. They’re not just getting out of their heads. They’re making a connection with the infinite.’
But youth worker Niqui Yazdi said the article, by Bay FM journalist Anna James, ‘does Byron’s homeless no good whatsoever. It is flowery and fluffy and makes no point at all’.
‘Homelessness is not a “gypsy” lifestyle. There are no gyspy kids in Byron,’ Ms Yazdi wrote in a letter to the editor published today, ‘but there are a shitload of seriously impoverished young people, who daily face the very worst kind of struggles anyone could ever face: no homes, no comforts, no food, no family, mental illness, ill-health, drug and alcohol addiction and the constant fear of abuse in many, many forms.’
‘I would say that very few of those who are homeless and under 25 would be on any kind of “spiritual journey”, most have had either long-term issues with family, drugs, alcohol, or mental illness – and if they didn’t start out that way, then often these things end up a part of their homeless “journey”.’
Ms Yazdi said that many young homeless teenagers ‘find their way into little groups, often more so because they feel safer like this, but then, as a group, it also sometimes encourages drug and alcohol-misuse,’
‘I find it appalling that so many in this town see our homeless people as a “problem”, Ms Yazdi wrote. ‘In fact, it is a shameful disgrace that the plight of these people is often seen as a “shame” on our town and that attitudes of some people towards our homeless, is that this is a “policing issue” as I saw one prominent local business person refer to it last year.
‘What so many seem to forget, is that many of our homeless have come to this through circumstances sometimes beyond their control. Families get evicted from their homes here when their rents go up to a point where they can no longer afford to pay the ridiculous rents, or to have those homes turned into “happy houses” or holiday lets.
‘Young people become homeless for so many reasons, and there is nothing for them here if they do. In fact there is nowhere for our homeless to go now, since the cottage was closed, to even get a shower, wash their clothes or keep their belongings safe. I am truly saddened by the homeless situation in Byron and I sincerely wish that appropriate solutions could be found to help them,’ Ms Yazdi wrote.