General News

30 August, 2022

Homelessness crisis worsens

PEOPLE are being forced in live in cars and tents as the homelessness crisis on the Tablelands continues to take a toll on the lives of locals.

By Ellie Fink

Homelessness crisis worsens - feature photo

With nearly no rentals, delays in getting new houses built, and a waiting list of over four years for public housing, charities and community support groups are under the hammer trying to cope with the additional demand on their services. 

Mareeba Community Housing services a portion of the Far North as big as Tasmania and have been inundated with new clients in the past 18 months. 

The community group works with people facing homelessness from Ravenshoe to Kuranda and Julatten and staff have seen an increase and a change in the type of clients seeking assistance.

General manager Patricia Goldfinch said although Covid was a driving factor in the current crisis, it was not the sole culprit, with natural disasters down south, additional seasonal workers in the area and the increase in housing prices coming into play.

“As well as seeing an increase in families coming in for support, we have seen a lot of single male and females,” she said.

“The last 18 months has thrown everyone’s world upside down and we have seen working singles and families coming in looking for rent, but every week there is a $60-$70 increase in rental prices. 

“We know every one of these people by name, we know there are 16 groups and six of them are living out of cars, so we know them and how to do what’s best for them.” 

Also, under pressure is St Vincent de Paul Society in both Mareeba and Atherton, with head office sending up a massive supply of tents to the region to assist in the crisis. 

The tents are mainly being set up in caravan parks for families to live in while they search for a permanent home.

“Our volunteer members have been working hard to support people struggling to find housing, but it remains a significant challenge without the adequate supply,” Vinnies Queensland CEO Kevin Mercer said. 

“We are continuing to advocate for a greater investment in social and affordable housing across Far North Queensland and the rest of the State in response to this ongoing crisis. 

“We are starting to see some promising developments, but it will certainly be a long road ahead.” 

Ms Goldfinch said that although tents are being given out to assist with the crisis, media reports of “tent cities” in the region were completely false and stigmatised homelessness.

As a result, mental health issues were becoming more common amongst those who had not done anything wrong but found themselves without a home for their family. 

“Our preference is not to have people just sent off with a swag and not give them any support or any direction to where to go,” she said.

“We have the mindset that everyone deserves the opportunity to get the assistance they need, and we don’t want to just send them to the streets. 

“If you look around you don’t see these tent cities lining the streets anywhere.”

Tablelands Salvation Army have also been supplying tents and swags for people coming to them for help and corps leader Miriam Newton-Gentle echoed Mr Mercer’s comments about a long-term solution.

“Over the past 18 months, the increase of those seeking shelter has increased and with no emergency accommodation, not even temporary, on the Tablelands the situation is dire and desperate for many,” Ms Newton-Gentle said.

“More affordable housing is what is needed but this of course is long-term solution, and we need safe emergency accommodation so we can give them more than just a tent.”


Most Popular