Above: Social Justice Advocates of the Sapphire Coast secretary Dianne Beckett and chairperson Mick Brosnan hold ‘Liferaft’ the book written by GJ Maher, detailing the efforts made to provide caravans to homeless people in the Bega Valley Shire.
The Social Justice Advocates of the Sapphire Coast have again detailed an urgent need for both transitional and sustainable long-term social housing in Bega Valley Shire.
“The situation was dire in late 2019 and was then made far worse by the Black Summer bushfires”, said SJASC Chairman, Mick Brosnan. “Government assistance, whilst appreciated, is often hampered by procedure and slow to arrive, and the situation remains desperate.”
He said agencies in neighbouring Eurobodalla Shire were expressing identical concerns. “The recent NSW budget was a big let-down, with $812 million allocated to social housing, but none of this for our region. Fifty-five per cent was targeted to metro areas, the closest to us being Goulburn. By contrast, Victoria has a $5 billion package to address post-Covid housing and employment needs. Bega Valley should have a dedicated social housing program delivering not just homes but also the jobs we urgently need.” He said many regional jobs were completely dependent on the hospitality sector, leaving Bega Valley Shire inherently vulnerable with districts affected unevenly.
SJASC Secretary, Dianne Beckett agreed existing schemes leave large service delivery gaps. “We continue to receive pleas for housing from services who are overwhelmed. The services report that their only option is to offer a tent or swag, or suggest that the person leave the area. They have seen large families crammed in motel rooms, caravans and some sleeping rough in tents. Many don’t register for help as they’ve just given up.”
Mr Brosnan said he didn’t believe housing was a party political issue. “It is encouraging to hear Andrew Constance admit the need to get people out of caravans into homes,” he said, adding that Council also acknowledges problems, calling on landlords to rent vacant holiday homes to permanent tenants. “We’re calling on local, state and federal government to work closely with local agencies to address this crisis.”
He said organisations like the SJASC worked hard to provide transitional relief but their resources were always stretched and currently overwhelmed. “Homelessness affects everything – health, education and mental well-being. Tragically, there are sometimes those we just can’t help. This is clearly a formal government responsibility, at all tiers, but it’s a responsibility which is not being realised. To date, SJASC has provided 65 caravans to people made homeless by the bushfires as well as continuing to find shelter for those made homeless for many other reasons, including job loss, or a health crisis.”