Huntly Lions Park homeless with ‘nowhere to go’ after Bendigo council tenting ban

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It has been two weeks since homeless people living in a north Bendigo park were given notices from the council telling them camping was no longer allowed, but three have not come closer to finding a home.

Core items:

  • Three people are still sleeping at Huntly Lions Park
  • The City of Greater Bendigo issued eviction notices two weeks ago
  • It states that homeless people must work with a provider that only has one rental property available

Lee-Anne Gray has lived at Huntly Lions Park since January and is among the few who still live on the site.

Ms Gray said she applied for dozens of rental properties.

“There’s never anything available… You can’t get a rental property in Bendigo. It is impossible.”

A recent move to clear it came after the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning approved a request from the City of Greater Bendigo to rezoning the land from long-term camping to “recreational” use only.

Haven, Home, Safe (HHS) executive director Trudi Ray said the organization has been actively working with people who slept outdoors at Huntly Lions Park for the past two years.

“We have a very dedicated workforce that works constantly with the local people,” said Ms. Ray.

She said they have worked with 30 people camping in Huntly over the past two years and successfully transferred more than a dozen into shelters.

People at Huntly Lions Park have been sleeping outside for more than two years.(ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

Emergency shelters limited

When asked what they are doing to help central Victorians find housing, the City of Greater Bendigo has repeatedly pointed to HHS.

But HHS CEO Trudi Ray said emergency accommodation options in Bendigo are limited during school holidays when the rooms are used by tourists.

The state government has committed more than $5 billion to build 12,000 new homes, with $1.25 billion earmarked for housing in the Victoria region, but Ms Ray said it wasn’t enough.

“We still have the lowest percentage of public housing of any state or territory in Australia,” Ms Ray said.

“This will not close the gap to bring us to the national average.”

Haven, Home, Safe says low vacancy rates in Bendigo make it difficult to find affordable housing.(ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

Housing Stress Statewide

HHS has 2,000 properties and is endorsing more than 6,000 additional units per year.

There is currently a property for rent in central Victoria.

“A lot of the people we work with aren’t even on the waiting list,” Ms. Ray said.

“There are a lot of people we work with who don’t access the Victorian Housing Register, which is the only way to get council, community and council housing in Victoria.”

There are currently 64,304 people on the state waiting list for public housing.

“In the last year alone, 1,500 people have come into our ministry who have never been part of the homeless service system,” said Ms. Ray.

“120,000 people in this state are in housing stress.”

‘going nowhere’

Ms Gray said HHS helped her with emergency shelter in November last year before she began to sleep poorly but was unable to get her to safe accommodation.

woman with letter Lee-Anne Gray is awaiting another letter from the council asking her to move on.(ABC Central Victoria: Tyrone Dalton)

“Then they said here: ‘Here is a tent. We can’t help you anymore,'” she said.

She said she was concerned the council or police would force her to leave her current home in Huntly Park.

“That’s not fair. We are awaiting a dated letter,” Ms Gray said.

“I have nowhere to go.”

A human rights lawyer has previously slammed the town of Greater Bendigo, trying to stop it from evicting people.

The council has previously told the ABC that it has no intention of forcibly removing anyone.

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