CRISIS: Pushed out, left out and no place to call home
SLEEPING rough has become the norm for too many people on the Northern Rivers.
According to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on homelessness which were released on Wednesday, one per cent of people in the Byron Shire and .72 per cent of those in the Lismore area were without a place to call home.
ABS figures also showed the number of homeless people living in the Tweed Shire increased by 44 per cent over a five-year period.
While some readers may be shocked at these findings, for Social Futures director Tony Davies, it's an all too familiar story.
Mr Davies said homelessness was always a complex picture and it's now become an increasingly desperate one.
"In Lismore LGA according to ABS data, homeless rates are about 50 per cent above state average," he said.
He said the impact from 2017 flood was still being felt as the scarcity of properties available for rent continued to dwindle.
"One consequence of the flood is homelessness as issues with accommodation and alternative arrangements people may have had in place are now breaking down," he said.
"Here and in Murwillumbah, the government has allocated money for flood-affected people but there are not enough rental properties available."
But he praised the Lismore City Council for calling for expressions of interest from housing providers, community organisations and/or private developers for partnerships to deliver $3.5 million worth of affordable and key worker housing in town.
"There's lots of unused spaces above shops in the Lismore CBD," Mr Davies said.
"It would be great to see these used for housing".
Byron Community Centre director, Paul Spooner, said homelessness is critical issue which needs all levels of government to get involved.
On Monday he called an emergency meeting with local police, council and agencies to discuss short-term and long-term solutions.
"I decided to put the message out as this situation has gone beyond goodwill and volunteering to solve," he said.
"On Wednesday we had 20 people from council, police, local organisations and businesses talking about the current situation."
Mr Spooner said the discussion resulted with a number of immediate goals, including lobbying the state government as well as implementing longer-term goals such as day-house so homeless people can have a place to shower, wash clothes, have a cup of team and access legal, medical and other services.
"The situation in the Byron Shire has one in 100 people homeless and this needs a unified approach by federal, state and local governments," he said.
"Australia's average of social housing is 4 to 5 per cent we have two per cent, so the lack of being able to find anything affordable is pushing people to the edges."