Caretaker Paul Boffey, Federal housing minister Robert McClelland, with the coordinator of the Byron Emergency Accommodation Project, Damian Farrell.
Caretaker Paul Boffey, Federal housing minister Robert McClelland, with the coordinator of the Byron Emergency Accommodation Project, Damian Farrell. Digby Hildreth

Seeking housing solutions

THE FEDERAL Government's new Minister for Housing came to Byron Bay on a fact-finding mission yesterday and took the time to sit down and listen to local experts in emergency housing.

Robert McClelland, also the Minister for Homelessness, met with Richmond MP Justine Elliot, Byron mayor and Greens MLC Jan Barham, people from the Northern Rivers Social Development Council and emergency housing workers at a house for the homeless, managed by the Byron Emergency Housing Project.

The minister listened closely to the range of issues discussed, asking questions and making notes. He heard of the need for funding for a regional housing co-ordinator to pick up some of the initiatives that have arisen out of grassroots involvement with community housing, and of the region's ability to solve issues locally, and the need for funding to address shortages in emergency and low-income accommodation.

Today, BEAP - Byron's top organisation for housing the homeless and providing inter-agency support for their social dislocation - will sign leases on two more houses, bringing the total houses they manage to seven, and the total number of people they can house to 17.

Paul Boffey, who came to BEAP in need of emergency housing 20 months ago, has been given the job of caretaker of one of the new houses.

"I'm blessed," Mr Boffey said.

"If it wasn't for BEAP - well, I don't like to think of what other outcome was on the cards for me. I'm the happiest I've ever been."



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