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Byron Shire
October 18, 2021

Tackling homelessness at a local level

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One Roof Byron president Louella Beale and vice-president Genevieve Lee are taking direct action to tackle local homeless issues in the Byron Shire. Photo Tree Faerie

Tiny homes are a way to the future and thanks to the generosity of land owners in the Byron Shire, One Roof Byron (ORB) is giving people the opportunity to help build their own.

It is estimated that thousands of Australians are existing just weeks away from homelessness; many people are already sleeping in their cars, couch surfing, in insecure accommodation, worried about being moved on or paying out more than they can afford in rent.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show the number of homeless people living in our region jumped by 44 per cent over a five-year period, with numbers in Byron Bay increasing 17 per cent. Although these numbers are comparable to those in major cities, there is not the same quantity of social housing available in northern NSW, resulting in a public housing waiting list of around 13 years.

Local initiative

The One Roof project is a local initiative responding to the crisis by trialling an early intervention longer term accommodation model, in consultation with Council and local service providers.

Those doing it tough can build their own tiny home while being supported to develop the skills needed to live in one place for a longer time. The model is particularly aimed at helping those relatively new to rough sleeping who are seeking to change.

A local land owner has donated land for the project where the tiny homes will be located.

‘It seems pretty normal to be working in the Byron Shire but have no fixed address, or still be under rental stress,’ says ORB’s Genevieve Lee.

‘By removing some of the barriers for people, we aim to restore the feelings of safety, dignity and empowerment. Barriers, such as affordability, proximity to services or even dog ownership, in some cases.’

Evidence shows that the needs of people experiencing long term homelessness are vastly different to a person new to rough sleeping. 

‘Not everyone wants to or is able to live in a tiny house, so we also offer conventional residential longer term accommodation,’ said Ms Lee.

Participants in the program also have the opportunity to take part in permaculture and skilling activities as well as work on resolving the factors which led them to experience homelessness in the first place.

One Roof Byron is a registered charity run by community members, some of whom have lived experience of homelessness themselves. 

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  1. Congratulations on finding a solution to some of the affordable housing problems. I’m doing something similar but different for older women who have some superannuation but not enough to buy a home. I’m also trying to create a Tiny House Village with some ownership and some renters, predominantly for older women before they end up homeless or sleeping rough. I think if I can get the Village model passed through council, we’ll set a precedent and will be able to create ‘pocket neighbourhoods’ as early intervention. I’ll contact you if I’m in Byron soon and you’re most welcome to walk through my first build here in Coffs Harbour.
    Good on you!

    • Hi Kim,

      We are also submitting a proposal to our Council later in the year when the EOI comes out. Be great to put our heads together and come up with some strategies!

      Could even meet half way at Yamba? before your next Byron trip. Pls contact me on [email protected] or 0411 442 905

      Thank you for your kind words of encouragement! And thank you for your great work too. It’s up to the grass roots community to get this crisis solved.

      Genevieve Lee
      One Roof Byron team

  2. I love this idea!
    Not only does it tackle homelessness, but it also provides the participants an avenue for future income: those who successfully build their own tiny home would have developed a worthwhile skill, and can thus earn money building more tiny homes – either for council (for elderly or disabled residents who cannot do it themselves) or for private customers.
    Would love to see this implemented everywhere!

    • Hi Geoff,

      Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement! So would we!


      Genevieve Lee
      One Roof Byron Team


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