Life in a caravan is no holiday for family

ANOTHER victim of the Border’s affordable housing shortage, a young family has spent the past three months living in an Albury caravan park.

Cramped into the space the size of a small living room for weeks on end, it’s been no holiday for Kristy and John (not their real names) or their two girls aged two and five.

Their eldest daughter has been hospitalised twice when she become dehydrated during a hot night in late October.

The cooling system in the carpeted annex doesn’t reach into the main caravan or the space, no larger than a pantry, where the two girls sleep in bunk beds.

Kristy said the two doctors they spoke to had the same advice.

“They all told us that a space like a caravan is not very good for children,” she said.

Next week the girls will finally be free from life lived within a few square metres when the family moves into a short-term rental organised by the Albury Supported Accommodation Service — a base with a backyard from where they can find permanent home.

But they are among the lucky ones.

In Albury in the past six months, Housing NSW has sent 320 people looking for a home to low-cost motels, hotels, refuges and caravan parks.

In the same period in Wodonga, the Rural Housing Network has helped 31 clients with payments for caravan parks.

Their operations manager, Celia Adams, said there were obvious problems with living in a tourist park, including imperfect bathroom and cooking facilities.

But it was a roof over their head, when the alternative option was no roof at all.

“We rely really heavily on the good will of the caravan parks owners ... and at the end of the day they’re business owners,” Ms Adams said.

“Resolving the homelessness issue is not their responsibility but they do support the work we do.”

Kristy and John arrived on the Border after a family feud made them leave their Hobart home in fear of their safety.

Albury-Wodonga was the last stop — the point at which they ran out of money.

At first Kristy said NSW Housing paid three days of accommodation, then it was up to them to find about $300 a week to stay alongside holidaymakers in the caravan park.

With that money they could have easily afforded to rent a brick home but they were knocked back eight times in private rental applications.

It’s a problem those service providers say ultimately comes back to the shortage in affordable housing.

Chief executive of Albury’s YES Youth and Family Services Di Glover says a combined effort from local government, state government, federal government, service providers and the community was needed.

She said the generous response of Border residents to a recent case of a homeless couple living in their car was evidence there is the will out there to help those going through tough times.

“I guess the challenge is how can we channel that goodwill because we’ve been around a long time and we’ve been putting our hand up for help every five minutes,” she said.

The Albury Supported Accommodation Service is seeking assistance for Kristy and John to furnish their new house and can be contacted at info@albsas.org.au.

Meanwhile the Triple H forum is after ideas about how to tackle homelessness in the region at triplehforum@gmail.com.

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