Mansfield’s homeless suffering in silence
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.