By Margaret Maccoll
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2016 Census data there are more than 100,000 Australians homeless in virtually every part of the country including Noosa Shire where the Council of Homeless People estimates there are more than 200 homeless. As well as people sleeping rough ABS defines homelessness to include people in shelters, boarding houses, temporary housing or those living in severely crowded houses.
Social planners Briggs and Mortar were contracted by Noosa Council to produce Noosa Council Housing Needs Assessment in 2017 which identified affordability as a particular issue in Noosa Shire due to employment being frequently in low skilled, casual or part-time positions. “Hospitality workers, sales assistants, transitory and young workers are considered particularly vulnerable to housing affordability issues. It outlined a Residential Development Strategy that recommended affordable housing strategies be developed at a regional level (that is, including Gympie Regional Council and Sunshine Coast Council areas) particularly as Noosa Shire
has forecast low population growth and suggested any surplus Council-owned land should be used to support low cost housing outcomes.
Other recommendations in its strategy included to promote construction of one to two bedroom units and smaller houses and units, rather than large dwellings; work with and support local and regional housing providers to provide low cost, medium
to long term housing; and investigate the extent to which houses in the detached housing zone are let for short-term
holiday rental and the resultant impact on neighbouring residential amenity.
Last October Noosa Council brought together a number of not-for-profit organisations for Social Services Hub Day, a fortnightly one-stop-shop initiative at Tait-Duke Community Cottage to provide services for people who are facing hardship.
Since opening it’s service range coordinated by Noosa Council has grown and includes Sunny Street mobile health service, St Vincent de Paul, Red Cross Employment Services, Orange Sky Laundry, Department of Housing, Centrelink, NDIS and United Synergies and every couple of months services across the greater region meet to work on issues.
By far the cost of housing and limited access to affordable housing is the most important issue affecting visitors to the centre and while most people come to discuss housing issues many are assisted by other services while they are there.
Musician Steve Goodchild came to Noosa in 1976 and played in a rock n roll band and has been since been a regular visitor. At the hub on Tuesday he visited the doctors to treat a chest infection and enjoyed the company.
Ryan Glass is overjoyed at the help he has received through the hub which is enabling him to find a job and get back on his feet after being homeless for six years.
With assistance he has obtained his driving licence again and been more than pleased to gain a few offers of driving jobs and the promise of a better future. “I’ve got a choice of jobs,” he said. “It’s a bit weird. I think it’ll happen in a few weeks.”
Sunny Street doctors Nova Evans and Sonia Goodwin see an average of four to eight patients in their two hourly sessions and many other patients have health checks conducted by visiting nurses.
Dr Evans said they had had diagnosed conditions such as diabetes, asthma, Hepatitis and immunised many against the flu. With the cooler months they are treating more chest infections which they hope they can treat early and prevent from becoming a serious illness requiring hospital admission.
One notable success was a man who hadn’t seen a doctor in 30 years.
“He said I’d like to be able to walk pain free. I haven’t done that in 10 years,” he told them. They hooked him up with a podiatrist and he now walks pain free.
Some people come just to have a chat and Cynthia Hunter from the Australian Red Cross is happy to provide a listening ear along with tea and coffee and sandwiches.
United Synergies provide a range of services to people from showers and laundry to mental health and financial advice and also report some great success stories have come from the service, particularly in helping people sort out debt problems.
A United Synergies representative said single males were their most common clients at Noosa and the cost of housing was a major issue.