Support services for local homeless struggling
By RACHEL AFFLICK
THE organiser of Byron Bay's weekly homeless breakfast, Gwen Gould, says the gap between the 'haves' and the 'have nots' is widening.
Her comments come in the wake of a new report showing homeless services across the Northern Rivers have been under increasing demand in the past 12 months.
The report, to be considered by Byron Shire Council at its next meeting, also highlighted a change in clientele, with increasing demand from older people and low-income families.
Gwen, who runs the homeless and community breakfast at the Byron Bay Community and Cultural Centre on Wednesday mornings, says there is a desperate need for a homeless shelter in the town.
She said people were struggling to meet the rising cost of accommodation in Byron Bay, and as a result the gap between the poor and the wealthy was increasing.
"We've been trying to work on this for a long time, to find a place where they can have some sort of shelter. You run into a problem where you need some kind of supervision which means you need the council to be involved," Gwen said.
Every Wednesday, from 7.30am to 9am, Gwen has about 40 homeless and marginalised people turn up for breakfast.
One man, Scotty, said he had been living in a house for three months, but found it far too expensive.
Now he camps out in a swamp. "I could afford rent, but I couldn't afford to feed myself," he said.
The 2006 Census indicates there is a substantial problem of homeless people on the Northern Rivers.
Byron had 102 homeless people, while there were 87 for Lismore, 25 for Ballina and 37 for the Richmond Valley.
With the evidence pointing to an increasing homeless population in the Byron Shire, the council has developed a draft homelessness policy to help tackle the issue.
Based on the local government model policy on homelessness prepared by the Local Government and Shires' Association, it would require councillors to work with stakeholders to identify the extent of homelessness in the region, and to develop strategies to address it.
Councillors will vote on whether to adopt the policy when they meet tomorrow.