Mayor of Tweed Shire, Chris Cherry and Councillor Nola Firth will leave the warmth and comfort of their homes behind for one night during August to raise awareness of homeless numbers in the Tweed.
The Councillors will join community leaders from across the Shire when they take part in the annual Fred’s Place Vinnies Community Sleepout at Seagulls Club at Tweed Heads West on Friday 19 August.
The pair will call an empty cardboard box home for the night as they brave the cold to raise awareness and funds for Fred’s Place – the only drop-in centre for homeless people in the Tweed.
“The situation with homelessness in the Tweed Shire has reached breaking point,” said Mayor Cherry.
“We had already declared a housing emergency before the COVID-19 migration, now the devastating floods have taken a further 500 homes out of circulation.
“Everybody deserves to be able to access that basic right of shelter. This is not a situation that is going to get better without serious intervention.
“We are calling on the owners of short-term holiday rental properties in the Tweed to spare a thought for these people and rent out their homes to those in need.”
The 2021 Census figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics recently showed 3,892 or 9.4% of private dwellings in the Tweed were unoccupied on the night of the Census.
“Think how much that could help if only half of these homes were added to the permanent rental pool,” said Mayor Cherry.
Councillor Firth, who participated in her first St Vinnies Sleepout last year, said the growing number of homeless people across Australia was “a disgrace”.
“It really distresses me that in a country as rich as Australia we should have a growing number of people homeless in our community. This wasn’t the case when I was younger and Australia was less affluent,” Cr Firth said.
“In 2016, the Census showed us there were 444 people who were homeless in the Tweed – I hate to think what that figure is now after the flood.
“It may be only a token thing for us to sleep rough for one night but it’s better than nothing. I feel very strongly about this.”
Cr Firth has called for a local workshop to be held to update Councillors on the issue of homelessness in the Tweed and look at what can be done to assist.
“I know it is a State issue but it is so serious we all need to be doing something about it,” she said.
All funds raised from the Sleepout will go towards Fred’s Place which is the only drop-in centre in the region and is fully funded by donations. The centre provides a place for the vulnerable to access services ranging from food and health support to laundry and bathroom facilities.
Last year, the 2021 Fred’s Place Vinnies Community Sleepout raised $40,000.
To find out more and to support Councillors Cherry and Firth in their campaigns, visit Fred’s Place Vinnies Community Sleepout 2022.