Plans to pay local caravan parks and motels to provide crisis accommodation for women facing homelessness are being held back by the inability or unwillingness of the businesses to help out.
The Byron Community Centre (BCC) say they have been offered more than $250,000 by a private donor to purchase a one-bedroom cabin at a local caravan park, so that local women who have lost their homes can have somewhere to stay until a permanent solution can be found.
The donor also offered to rent a self-contained space in a motel, hostel, or a private granny flat for three years, with full payment provided up front.
However, after calling at least 22 separate accommodation providers, BCC’s General Manager, Louise O’Connell says not one was able or willing to provide a 12-month agreement.
Many sighted a lack of availability owing to demand from visitors, while others said their policies prevented them from subletting their cabins.
Ms O’Connell said there appeared to be an unwillingness on the part of some providers to help women facing homelessness.
She told The Echo, ‘I think there’s a misconception about the people who would be using this accommodation’.
‘We’re not talking about dangerous or unstable people here, we’re talking about women only, some of them single mums, who have been carefully vetted to make sure it’s appropriate for them to stay there.
‘We tried to explain to the providers but they still said “no”.
We’re really hoping that one or two will come to the table and help us provide some desperately-needed crisis accommodation, so that when we have a mum in her work uniform, and a kid in the car coming to us at 4pm saying “we’ve got nowhere to stay tonight”, we can actually help them’.
A recent report from Byron Council found that many of those affected by the housing crisis are the Shire’s key workers, particularly women.
Despite earning an income, a growing number of these workers have been completely priced out of the market, or are simply unable to find rental accommodation near their workplaces because there isn’t any.
Can Council help?
Deputy Byron Mayor Michael Lyon will put a multi-pronged motion to this week’s Council meeting, that includes investigating the use of Council-owned holiday parks for crisis accommodation.
The rough sleeper count recently showed that Byron has the highest number in NSW after Sydney’, Cr Lyon said.
‘We [Council] are working on a number of measures to provide for our key workers and community. However, while we wait for the State Government to progress a number of our proposals, there is a need for emergency accommodation as more and more people are forced to live in their cars’.
Under the motion, Council staff would investigate options for ‘safe and secure emergency accommodation for women in local tourist and caravan parks’, including ‘Council-owned and operated parks and/or private parks’.
The motion also proposes building amenity hubs, so that those forced to sleep in their cars or vans can have a shower, cook some food and stay safely over night.
‘Like a lot of people, I feel very strongly about visitors who come to the Shire in vans and don’t look after the environment’, Cr Lyon said.
‘But what we found during the last crack down on illegal camping was that a there are a significant number of locals who are living in their vans and cars, because they don’t have anywhere to live.’
‘It would be great for them to have somewhere to have a hot shower, go to the bathroom and maybe cook in a shared kitchen’.
Cr Lyon said it was worth exploring whether land owned or managed by Council could be used to accommodate the hubs.
He also said that Council’s homeless liaison officers could attend the hubs on a regular basis to offer other forms of support and assist with accessing services.