Mayor calls for action on homelessness

10 June 2022

Eurobodalla Mayor Mathew Hatcher says action is needed by all levels of government to ease the shire’s housing crisis, and he’s starting locally.

The Mayor will ask the Council to look at whether halls can be opened up so that people living rough can shelter there. Longer-term solutions that would see the Council providing land for tiny homes in a pilot project funded by the Federal government, or building a homeless shelter to be run by a local service will also be explored.

“This is a crisis,” Mayor Hatcher said. “The shire’s homelessness services are providing all the right supports to people, but there’s simply no housing. That’s the issue none of us can address.”

He said he was hearing loud and clear the community’s cries to support people living in tents, particularly at the Council-owned North Head campground at Moruya where around 50 families are currently living.

“Case workers are already supporting people at the campground. I understand the good intentions of people calling on Council to open up halls for shelter, but before that can happen we need to examine practicalities like personal safety, privacy, the available facilities, and whether local agencies are resourced to manage them.”

The Mayor said opening up halls was one thing, but more permanent medium-term solutions were needed to help solve homelessness in the Eurobodalla.

“I want to explore the feasibility of a pilot project funded by the Federal government to build tiny homes on Council or Crown land,” he said.

“Council could also consider taking a loan to build a facility to be run by one of our local homelessness services.”

The Mayor said he understood these actions were outside the usual local government responsibilities, but these were extraordinary times.

“We need to think differently about this and explore new ways to help our residents, and we need the NSW and Federal governments to do the same.

“NSW Government regulations prevent people staying in campgrounds for longer than 50 days in one year. Obviously we’re overlooking that at the moment so families have somewhere to be in the midst of this crisis.”

“We’ve also this month written to the NSW Government calling on them to provide worker housing ahead of the Moruya bypass and regional hospital construction. That housing could be used by locals once the projects are complete.

“Council staff have also worked with local agencies to pilot a program providing free hot showers and laundry services for people experiencing homelessness, and through my own contacts I’ve arranged for 500 blankets to be donated and distributed locally to those in need.

“We’re doing our bit, and we’re now asking the NSW and federal government to do theirs.”

Mayor Hatcher says he’s confident he’ll find support with local MPs Kristy McBain, Fiona Phillips and Michael Holland, and intends to reach out to them over the weekend.

Discussions with Council staff and local agencies are underway, and the Mayor anticipates a report to Council on 28 June that will seek a budget allocation to continue this work.