Tweed Daily News

Fear of homeless centre 'misguided'

FEAR that a homeless centre in the Tweed Heads CBD will attract unwanted people to the city is misguided, according to John Lee, president of You Have a Friend.

News that Bay Street's Whitehall Lodge was a proposed location for a Tweed homeless hub has been met with opposition from local businesses, who say it is not appropriate for a developing CBD area.

Led by Cafe Lazumba's, a number of business owners have urged people behind the proposal, including Tweed MP Geoff Provest and Mr Lee, to look somewhere else.

But Mr Lee, who has supported homeless people on the streets of the Tweed for more than five years, said the homeless are not dangerous people.

“Speaking from experience, in the Tweed today there are people desperately needing food, accommodation and jobs. They are business people, mothers, children and many others simply out of work,” Mr Lee said.

“Some are even teens escaping abusive carers with others fleeing domestic violence. Many are sleeping in their cars, alongside churches and under abandoned buildings. They have to remain faceless and out of sight. There is a 12 year waiting list for accommodation from Housing NSW.

“The majority of our Tweed homeless are not dangerous, violent alcoholics or drug addicts. They are sensitive people whom hard times have fallen on. Some, just a year ago, were dining and working alongside those of us lucky enough to have a place called home.”

He said the Tweed has some of the highest levels of homelessmess in the state, and these people needed help getting back on their feet.

According to Mr Lee, the homeless centre should not be called a “drop-in centre”.

“We have not proposed a drop-in shelter. No, it is a place for those on whom hard times have fallen. It is one that will assist people to return to society and the workforce. It is a place supporting women involved in domestic violence and where families with children needing crisis assistance can be housed.”

“Bay Street business owners and even the mayor have suggested the area is not appropriate for homeless people. And yet, in Bay Street alone exists two adult book shops and alongside our new Information Centre is a topless restaurant.”

“Our place would provide a respite from the rain and cold, a place to wash clothes, watch TV, enjoy a cuppa and most of all a place where people can once more build self esteem. A place they can again feel human and wanted and cared for by volunteers and professionals alike. This is not an unrealistic dream. I have seen it happening.”

Mr Lee said Tweed MP Geoff Provest had embraced the homeless plan wholeheartedly since being approached.

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