Deb Lightfoot-De Hamer is concerned for Stanthorpe's homeless.
Deb Lightfoot-De Hamer is concerned for Stanthorpe's homeless. Liana Walker

HOMELESS CRISIS: Growing numbers of people in need in Stanthorpe

INCREASING cases of homelessness in Stanthorpe have caused community outreach organisations to declare the situation "desperate”.

In the space of a single week, Stanthorpe Community Op Shop and Network Centre director Deb Lightfoot-De Hamer had to arrange emergency accommodation for three different individuals, as well as a family of three who were living in their car.

With next to no services, Mrs Lightfoot-De Hamer said it was a scramble to find accommodation every time someone came to her for help.

"All the caravan parks here are full because it is picking season so we can't even get them into caravans,” she said.

"Against my better judgment, I have taken people home.

"I am at a loss over what to do, you can only do so much.”

State member for Southern Downs James Lister was sympathetic towards recent calls from Southern Downs welfare groups to establish emergency accommodation in the region amid a growing housing crisis.

"I think the best thing the government can do in this situation is to fund the community support groups directly,” he said.

"It is a growing problem in society and government needs to support people in communities who know the best solutions to these problems.”

Mr Lister acknowledged the effort of volunteers and not-for-profit groups who have been pulling at threads to try and house the growing number of homeless people in the region.

"The people who run those organisations work very hard and it is very difficult for them to turn people away,” Mr Lister said.

"All of us, myself included, have to advocate for their funding.”

Stanthorpe Community Op Shop and Network Centre volunteers Peter Curtin, Vevencie Almini and Anne Pacey.
Stanthorpe Community Op Shop and Network Centre volunteers Peter Curtin, Vevencie Almini and Anne Pacey. Liana Walker

Mrs Lightfoot-De Hamer said the numbers of homeless people had increased significantly in the past 12 months.

Earlier this week, a 33-year-old woman spent three nights in her car in Stanthorpe with her partner, daughter and their dog.

The conditions were cramped, freezing and uncomfortable.

The woman, who wished to protect her identity and who previously assisted homeless people through a Christian ministry in Brisbane, said there were more emergency housing options in metropolitan areas.

But experiencing homelessness herself was a whole different story.

"This could happen to anyone and you really need something set into place to support people when they are in this situation,” she said.

"It is a daunting thing when all your comforts and your security goes and you're just looking at getting by with what is essential.

"I have seen it destroy people's lives. It is very traumatic.

"It's not even winter yet and it has been chill-to-the-bone situations. I can tell you it gets very cold in a car overnight.”

Mrs Lightfoot-De Hamer brought the issue to the attention of politicians in a public conversation with Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie that was published on the council website last year.

But she said she was disappointed nothing had been done to improve the situation.

Southern Downs mayor Tracy Dobie said the

council provided 44 long-term community housing options across the Southern Downs region, but homelessness was an issue for state and federal governments.

"Council undertook a two-year study into youth homelessness and that provided a lot of statistics for the community groups of the region that do support those in a homeless situation,” Cr Dobie said.

She also invited any community groups to approach the council to discuss future funding.

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