Homeless helped but issue ongoing

Bec Grisman of Coast2Bay Housing Group. Photos: Rob Maccoll

Margie Maccoll

It took only three days for Integrated Family and Youth Service (IFYS) to set up a 40-bed crisis accommodation hub on the Sunshine Coast when they were tasked with the project after Covid hit in 2020.

Organisation spokespeople Clare Hughes and Dan Rowe said Sunshine Coast Council identified a need because of the pandemic to “get homeless people off the streets”.

After just a few phone calls a self-contained centre that normally accommodated visiting sport competitors was located. All its bookings had been cancelled due to Covid and it became the ideal solution.

The hub now provides accommodation for 60 people, all referrals from the Queensland Department of Housing, who are linked to a range of services to provide access to health care, employment services, financial services and assist with securing permanent housing.

Dan said the hub may become a “flagship for the future” of homeless accommodation but acknowledged their efforts were just scratching the surface in terms of providing a solution for the homelessness.

“I think it’s a bigger issue than most people on the coast realise,” he said.

On Tuesday 15 service agencies came together at Tait Duke Cottage at Tewantin for a Housing and Homelessness Roadshow to assist people impacted by the housing crisis.

Visitors were able to wash their clothes at Orange Sky mobile laundry, have their hair cut, enjoy a cup of tea or coffee provided by the Australian Red Cross or sausage sizzle supplied by Tewantin Noosa Lions Club, pick up some clothes or toiletries from Vinnies and access the many other services.

The message across the roadshow was the same. The demand for services was huge and increasing. Rents and house prices are on the rise, making housing increasingly less affordable and housing stocks are low.

This year as Coast2Bay Housing Group celebrates its 30th anniversary, representative Bec Grisman said the service was growing – “sadly”. They recently established a new program, Better Together Housing, aimed at facilitating shared accommodation for women over 55 years, who, she said, were a growing but largely unseen homeless group in the community.

Women who find themselves without a job, their marriage has broken down or they’ve used up their accommodation are ending up homeless.

“They stay with friends, in cars. They don’t tell anyone they have no house. They live in constant fear of living on the streets,” Bec said.

“I met one woman the other day who is house sitting for friends. She hasn’t told anyone she has no house. She just hopes she gets another house to sit.

“They are people not used to asking for help

“We suspect the people who access the service are the tip of the iceberg. We have very few houses in Noosa but we get a lot of inquiries.”

St Vincent De Paul representatives Geoff Lee and John Harrison said there were wonderful agencies offering help but the demand for support, for food, for finance, for housing was “incredible”.

“We’ve given up trying to find people housing. We try to keep them in tenancies. If they leave a rental they can’t get another,” they said.

Aussie Tiny Houses founder Fabio Paulucci said he established his company to support social housing programs. Having discovered the concept in the US about a decade ago Fabio identified the need for tiny houses in Australia. Fabio said his customers had until now been private with governments being slow to adopt the concept.

However after raising $200,000 Youturn Youth Support service has invested in two Aussie Tiny Houses which, in a partnership with Noosa Council, will be sited on land next to Tait Duke Cottage to provide short-term accommodation for two families.

Fabio said the houses had now been completed and were waiting for offical sign off before being moved onsite.

Youturn spokeswoman Antoinette Lloyd said they expected their first families to be in the houses before Christmas.

Antoinette praised the roadshow for bringing together the services and making access easier.

“So many people experiencing homelessness now never thought they would, never had to reach out for support,” she said.

“For Noosa Council who have been very involved it’s about showing commitment to the community. We know it’s an issue. We’re trying to find better ways to address it.”