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Byron Shire
April 15, 2021

Will local accommodation providers step up to help homeless women?

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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.

Byron Bay Community Centre’s new GM Louise O’Connell. Photo Jeff Dawson.

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’.

Greens Cr and Richmond federal candidate Michael Lyon.

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.

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  1. Maybe its worth starting a movement to home women and children then other homeless people. We may need a few celebs to promote the fund raiser by we could maybe raise money to home one woman at a time. That would put this lousy government to shame. This would be a good time to start when the focus is on women. Just a thought I would be happy to donate to each one and maybe other Aussies would also.Millions were collected for fire victims why cant the same be done for homeless people ? cheers liz

  2. Why the bloody hell isn’t the old hospital operating as an emergency hub run by the Byron Community Centre and overseen by the Council liaison officer
    We have waited valuable months while some IN CONFIDENCE deal with Councillors leaves it empty.
    Also the empty Drop in Centre in Fletcher st would be perfect for emergency accommodation
    There you go Councillors get to work
    If you need State Govt approval pick up the phone and ask some hard questions Then the community would know your serious

  3. Dear Elizabeth’
    It seems you are unaware that the “Millions (that) were collected for fire victims” Actually was wasted on the RFS and victims were excluded. The same occurred when large sums were donated to the victims of cyclone Debbie but some fool at Lismore council, in charge of allocating the funds decided that all funds should go to a few random areas in the Lismore suburbs and nowhere else.
    Homelessness is certainly a problem when so much is spent on promotion of “heaven on a stick”- Byron Bay; but what about homeless Men ? Oh yeah, that’s right, they don’t count unless they’re ‘Traditional Owners’ in their ‘ Traditional Toyotas ‘
    Cheers, G”)

  4. A similar system is running in Tweed Shire. While the homeless are being looked after by a raft of welfare agencies getting them into permanent accommodation. All homeless need assistance, if they are willing to take it.
    I have very vivid memories of a homeless gentleman who was offered a permanent place to live, he refused citing he preferred the lifestyle he had. Beggars belief, but it is true.
    Donating money will never, ever SOLVE, the questions of homelessness. There are a myriad of issues to be dealt with, what caused the situation, how long has the person been in their current situation, does the person want a permanent fixed address, Welfare payments, help with getting set up in the new digs, the list goes on and it really takes time to get a person sorted.
    One of the most important things to remember is that we are dealing with very marginalised people, they are overlooked by passers-by, they are virtually invisible but they are there.
    Great care must be taken to involve each person in the solution to their current transient state, they need to own the solution.

  5. Can someone please explain why vulnerable woman are a higher priority to vulnerable men? Or is this another example of “equality” at work?

    • They are less able to defend against physical attack and are generally more valuable to the human condition at this point in our evolution.

  6. Seems to me that the businesses and authorities approached to find accommodation, refused because they have a fixed, negative, impression of what homeless people are and how they behave. Which may be true in a tiny percentage of cases. But the majority are women who just need help, and would be grateful for it. I’m thinking perhaps some kind of education program, showing who they are, with their stories, would help change the negative perceptions and therefore elicit a positive response. I’ve been homeless 7 yrs, btw and I’m not ‘trailer trash’.

  7. Being homeless can happen to anyone and can be as simple as your landlord wanting to sell and you not being able to find new accommodation you can afford close enough to keep holding onto your job and support may not be available around you as many are in the same position. Perhaps a simple start of some truststworthy organisation that can be open, communicate it’s plans and progress regularly to the community ( who understands this is not someone’s else’s job or problem to solve) and not judge why but get on with asking how? How can we help in small consistent ways to help this organisation build a strong ongoing programme of help up not a hand out but understand sometimes the handout helps build trust and understanding to continue wanting to build a life out of homelessness.
    The community needs to stop fearing homeless people they will not go away if you turn away. Life can throw you curveballs and most don’t choose that way of living it can happen to anyone. Would you donate a little money, food, time, clothes whatever you can every month if you could trust an organisation was genuinely doing good? How many of you have given a random money on a go fund me what’s the difference? Don’t assume a homeless person made bad choices and that’s why they are where they are! Male female everyone deserves compassion and know the story behind what got them there that could happen to you. The older you get you realise you actually can help just a little and from a lot of little’s can change people’s lives you don’t have to be a celebrity just have the will to .

  8. with 7.692 million km² of land under our feet why cant we find a place to exist, 15 years into a 40year mortgage for a slice of a wrecked companion ship
    a house shelter from the elements somewhere to hang your hat its a commodity, a vehicle for wealth creation, you cant just give this stuff out for free
    think of all the poor investors the estate agent’s, the solicitors for godsake they need to eat too, oh and don’t forget the council they need their shere they cant just go giving away potential
    human Greed is what keeps you homeless


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