Muswellbrook's tent city

AN ELDERLY, single man with Parkinson’s disease living in a run-down caravan, a woman and her six children in a donated tent.

These are some examples in areas such as Muswellbrook’s ‘‘tent city’’ – a camping ground that has become home to people affected by the Upper Hunter’s housing shortage, especially those on fixed incomes and the long-term unemployed.

Editorial: Upper Hunter housing crisis

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Real estate agents say there is never a shortage of working candidates for Muswellbrook’s rental properties, which are usually snapped up as soon as they come on the market.

The number of people temporarily without a home, mainly because of the pressure on rents, had risen ‘‘markedly’’ in recent months, said Muswellbrook mayor Martin Rush.

He estimated about 40 to 50 families and individuals had set up camp at the Lake Liddell recreation area and a camping ground next to Muswellbrook’s

showground – that some called tent city.

Upper Hunter Community Services staff and Saint Vincent de Paul volunteers said the camping grounds were also home to workers, mainly from the mining industry, who either couldn’t find affordable accommodation or chose to camp to save money.

Muswellbrook Shire Council has delivered firewood and tried to find emergency accommodation for the man in his late 60s who has Parkinson’s disease.

The man, who asked not to named, has been moved to a powered site at the lake while more permanent accommodation is found.

Another man, ‘‘Patrick’’ (not his real name), 56, set up camp at Lake Liddell after casual work came to a halt.

That was two years ago.

‘‘There is no co-ordinated planning for housing,’’ Patrick said.

He said he would like to see private industry and governments ‘‘get to grips’’ with boom-induced housing shortages at least five years before they were expected to hit.

Mrs O’Brien said Muswellbrook appeared to have a large transient population, with people assuming there was plenty of work but failing to factor in accommodation costs.

Upper Hunter Community Services crisis accommodation co-ordinator Janelle Monro said she found a young woman living under her office building in Muswellbrook’s main street.

And she said police helped a Western Australian man, aged 47, who was looking for work but had nowhere to live until officers found him a hotel room and his family paid to get him home.

Two families, one with five children and another with six, are camped near Muswellbrook’s showground.

In June, the State Emergency Service loaned the mother of six, who asked not to be named, one of its tents because of the weather.

She said people in Muswellbrook had been very kind.

LJ Hooker property manager Mark Winnings admitted rentals were in high demand and costs had risen dramatically during the past 18 months.

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