Family homelessness at crisis point

Sharla Bourke and Luke Trembath are desperate to find accommodation. Photo Rob Maccoll

By Margaret Maccoll

Just days before the first day of school term begins for her three children aged 5, 6 and 8 it’s looking like the best accommodation Sharla Bourke and her partner Luke Trembath can secure for their family is a tent site at the Big 4 caravan park.

Like a growing number of families in Noosa the couple, who both hold secure jobs in the area, have been unable to find affordable and available rental accommodation.

Sharla said the lease on their rental property ended on 11 January but the couple had began searching for another rental months prior.

“It’s becoming a lot harder,“ she said. “We’re having trouble being accepted for a house.

“People are willing to pay six months or the whole lease in advance. We can pay three months.“

Both Sharla and Luke grew up on the Sunshine Coast and have a support network of family and friends in the region.

They’ve considered moving out of the area but would need to find new jobs, new schools and would lose their support.

They have good paying jobs and good rental references, but it just doesn’t seem to be enough to secure a property.

Sharla said with such a demand for housing and landlords spoilt for choice they just keep receiving rejection letters in response to their tenancy applications.

“I just don’t know what to do,“ she said.

She said they’d considered all possibilities including three month stays at resort accommodation. Now reaching desperation point they’re looking at buying a 12-man tent and renting a $350 a week campsite.

“At least the kids will think it’s fun,“ she said.

Noosa MP Sandy Bolton said a younger cohort of families born and raised in the region was a growing group of people who were finding they could no longer afford to live here.

“We’ve got to make sure they have somewhere to live,“ she said.

Another couple with three young children (one at school), who didn’t want to be named, posted a notice on social media asking for help after after months of searching for a rental property led to nothing and with their lease fast running out were looking at homelessness.

“We applied for 15 to 20 properties. Everything was fine. Our references were good, our applications were good, but not successful,“ the woman said.

She said feedback told her landlords had given preference to applicants with no or fewer children.

Having moved to the area from Melbourne in 2015 they had no family to fall back on.

“If we didn’t find a place we would have nowhere to live,“ she said.

The couple contacted support services to find out what help may be available as a last resort only to be advised to look for properties in Caboolture or Bundaberg, but having established a life in Noosa and a school for their oldest child they did not want to move.

In desperation the mother asked for help on social media and was overwhelmed by offers from the community.

She said people were willing to open their homes to provide short term accommodation so they wouldn’t be homeless and could keep looking.

“It’s amazing how many offers we have had,“ she said.

“I really didn’t know what we would have done. It’s terrifying to think of the position some families are in and what’s going to happen to families. It’s a real crisis.“

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