Tucked away in a quiet corner of a local caravan park, a small, bright cabin sits beside the sea.
It’s the kind of dwelling that would normally fetch a high price on the short-term holiday rental market.
But this particular home will be occupied for free.
After nearly a year of negotiations between the Byron Community Centre and Byron Council, the cabin will, next month, become one of the Shire’s first temporary dwellings for vulnerable community members.
Services moved from area
Byron Shire has been home to crisis accommodation in the past, but over the past decade, these valuable services have been moved out of the Shire as part of the so-called ‘centralisation’ of social services.
This has seen accommodation for homeless youth and women conglomerated in the Tweed Shire and Lismore, and forced locals facing homelessness to move away from their communities and support networks.
With the local housing crisis worsening, the need for temporary crisis accommodation has grown exponentially.
‘Every day, we work with people who are experiencing homelessness and those at risk,’ says Dayna Suchoparek, Community Support Worker at Byron Community Centre.
‘When people don’t have somewhere to rest and feel safe, they experience heightened emotions as they are always on high alert’.
‘We know that when people are living in this state and in survival mode, it has a detrimental impact on their health and wellbeing.
‘People need the opportunity to have somewhere they can rest and recuperate to help them regain the capacity to work on the many challenges they face.’
The idea of using dwellings in local caravan parks for badly-needed crisis accommodation was first floated by Byron Community Centre in late 2020.
But finding an operator who was willing and able to take part proved to be a tough ask.
Eventually, having been turned away by every caravan park they spoke to, the centre approached Byron Council, which owns two such parks in the Shire, in the hope that it could encourage at least one of them to take part.
Finally, one of the Council-owned parks agreed, and the Council is now renting the cabin to the Byron Community Centre with the help of the Vasudhara Foundation, which has agreed to foot the bill via the WildWomen Fund.
Donors pitch in
Other donors have also pitched in with furnishings to help turn the cabin into a comfortable, safe and welcoming space.
‘We’ve already got someone in mind to move into the cabin who we’ve been working with,’ said the Community Centre’s Homelessness Projects Manager, Jenny Ryan.
‘Other possible cabin users will be identified through Fletcher Street Cottage, at the breakfasts, showers, engagement with the community workers, and also through collaboration with the key stakeholders who form the End Rough Sleeping Byron Shire Collaboration.’
‘We need more cabins like this – there is a lot of need out there.’
‘But this is a good start and hopefully it will be the catalyst for other similar projects.’
The exact location of the cottage is not being disclosed publicly, because some of those making use of the space may be at risk of ongoing family violence.