Mans­field’s home­less suf­fer­ing in si­lence

Mansfield Courier - - FRONT PAGE - By JAR­RAH LOH & STEVE VI­VIAN

MORE than 80 peo­ple in Mans­field are sleep­ing rough, ac­cord­ing to a lo­cal man who has had to stay on the streets since be­ing evicted from his rental prop­erty.

The dis­abled lo­cal pen­sioner, who suf­fers from a de­bil­i­tat­ing ill­ness, said that the prob­lem of home­less­ness in Mans­field is far big­ger than any­one imag­ines.

“Home­less­ness in Mans­field is be­com­ing epi­demic,” said the man. “And it will con­tinue to grow. “The home­less in Mans­field are hid­ing.”

Path­ways case man­ager Trin­ity Lonel echoed his sen­ti­ments.

“Over the last 12 months I have seen a real in­crease in home­less­ness in Mans­field,” said Mrs Lonel, who has worked in her role for 10 years.

“I cover a very large area, and I have to say, Mans­field is so dif­fi­cult, if not the most dif­fi­cult. “And it is get­ting worse.” Many lo­cals are couch-surf­ing and scram­bling as far away as Wan­garatta for a place to sleep.

“We’d be out on the main street if it wasn’t for the cold,” said the lo­cal man.

“And the em­bar­rass­ment for many is just too strong.”

Mrs Lonel says Mans­field is the kind of town that is very hard to get some­one housed.

“If you are in Mans­field and you can­not re­lo­cate, there is al­most noth­ing we can do about it right now,” she said.

She says that be­cause Mans­field is a big tourist town, the rental prices can be al­most ex­or­bi­tant.

“If you are on dis­abil­ity al­lowances or if you are a sin­gle mother, then you are not go­ing to be able to af­ford these high prices,” Mrs Lonel said.

But she con­cedes that most peo­ple wouldn’t even be aware that it is go­ing on in their own town.

Be­cause the stereo­type is of some­one push­ing a trol­ley down the street drink­ing out of a brown pa­per bag, if peo­ple don’t see that, then they don’t think there’s a prob­lem.

“It is a more com­plex sit­u­a­tion than most peo­ple think – some­times there is just no other op­tion,” Mrs Lonel said.

“Ob­vi­ously, there are men­tal health prob­lems, but some­thing sim­ple l i ke hav­ing one bad rental in­ci­dent against your name can block you out.

“If a young per­son mucks up on a rental, then for seven years they are al­most def­i­nitely not go­ing to be able to rent.

“Or, i t could be even as sim­ple as they don’t have a ref­er­ence, and the real es­tate agents will just pass over them ev­ery time.”

The ris­ing prices of rental prop­er­ties and car­a­van parks are in­deed caus­ing more and more peo­ple onto the streets, ac­cord­ing to the lo­cal man.

“It’s good for tourism, but what about lo­cals?” he said.

“Let the tourists pay, but why do the home­less have to pay the max­i­mum price here?

“My pri­or­ity has al­ways been pay­ing rent, but now I can’t.

“Peo­ple have nowhere else to go.”

The man is call­ing on Mans­field Shire Coun­cil to ad­dress the prob­lem.

Path­ways said the prob­lem is mostly due to a mas­sive public hous­ing short­age.

The old ex­ist­ing public houses have been sold off, but they have not been re­placed in Mans­field like they have been in other North East towns, like Wan­garatta.

“There is also zero tran­si­tional hous­ing in Mans­field,” said Mrs Lonel.

“Which is usu­ally set aside for short-term ac­com­mo­da­tion to help peo­ple un­til they can find long-term hous­ing.”

She would like to see at least two tran­si­tional prop­er­ties in Mans­field.

“The only way you are go­ing to get a roof over your head now is if you are go­ing to move, but then you could lose con­tact with all your friends and your whole sup­port net­work, which for peo­ple with­out even a home could be every­thing,” she said.

She also pointed out that mov­ing peo­ple to other towns is not an an­swer to the prob­lem and causes even more long-term prob­lems for fam­i­lies.

“What kind of com­mu­nity sim­ply hands their own peo­ple’s prob­lems to an­other com­mu­nity,” she said.

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