Flood victims caught in grip of housing crisis
THE hardest part about losing her home, says Jodie Mulliss, is considering what it's doing to her two little girls.
Gemma is just three-years-old and her sister, Rhianon, five.
The Murwillumbah mum has shifted her young family nine times since the disaster washed through the Greenhills Caravan Park, their home for more than a year, in the early hours of March 31.
For the past two weeks authorities have found them crisis accommodation at a Ballina caravan park, but they face an uncertain future from Friday with no assurances offered beyond then.
"I've tried to keep myself as strong as I can for them," the 33-year-old said.
"Little Gemma, she often asks 'when can we go home?'.
"Rhianon, she doesn't want to go back to school. She's been crying about it every day since it's gone back, says she doesn't want to go because she doesn't know where I'll be when she's at school, which breaks my heart. I thought, 'well, I'm not going to send her until she's comfortable knowing where I am'.
"She questions everything, every phone call I take, she questions. She asks, 'why can't we have a house with a backyard mummy?'."
The girls' dad, Mick, who had employment in Murwillumbah before the flood, has been without work since. He has been staying with them, supporting as best as he can.
The young mum said she gets a sick feeling in her stomach when she worries about having nowhere to go, and that Housing NSW has offered a longer-term place at Kyogle, but was concerned about the affect leaving their home town, Rhianon's school, their friends and community, might have on the girls after all they'd been through.
"My worry is being in a happy environment for them to feel comfortable," she said.
"Little Gemma, she still had a nap in the afternoons when we were at the cabin. But now, since the floods, she won't have a sleep unless I put her in the car, and I guess that's because the car's her safe place now."
Ms Mullis, who is unemployed, spent one of the April long weekends with her family in a tent at Chinderah's Scout Hall. She claimed it was because Housing NSW told her they were unable to offer accommodation.
She has searched the Tweed for accommodation for comparable rent to the cabin at Grenhills Caravan Park but has not been able to find anything.
One offer she has is space for a caravan at the Seventh Day Adventist Church, on their property at Tygalgah. According to Ms Mulliss, some of the other Greenhills Caravan Park residents are staying there, but she has no caravan.
The State Government takes on the housing crisis
Lismore MP Thomas George has promised "no one will be put out on the street" and the State Government will continue to offer crisis accommodation to people displaced due to the disaster.
"My word (we've been talking with our government)," he said. "Since the flood it's been continual. It's not the funding that's the problem, it's finding a place to be able to (build), and then we have to go through a process, so it won't happen overnight but we are certainly trying to find a long-term solution to this aspect of this major disaster."
NSW Labor Opposition Leader Luke Foley this week suggested a Flood Package for the North Coast.
One key part of it called for a "one-off $2.5 million special fund to construct and/or adapt crisis accommodation for homeless in the region".
Richmond MP Justine Elliot backed the move and called on Premier Gladys Berejiklian and state Nationals MPs Geoff Provest and Thomas George to urgently adopt Labor's comprehensive package.
But Mr George said the government had money ready for the project but the problem was finding a suitable, non flood-prone, site.
"We've got this (housing) problem in Murwillumbah that has been enhanced due to the flood but, like Geoff (Provest), this problem is in my electorate and we've been making representations and making sure that they are housed in the meantime," he said.
"But no one has got a solution. It's not as if we can take over another place and take them out of the crisis accommodation and put them into it... You need a block of ground and it has to be in a non-flood area. This is why everyone is at their wits end at the moment trying to find a solution to the problem."
More social housing
A spokesperson for the Department of Family and Community Services said the government had responded to the demand for social housing in the Northern Rivers area by providing 20 additional homes in the past 12 months in the Tweed Local Government Area.
"There has been a greater than normal demand for temporary accommodation across the Northern Rivers district as a result of the recent floods," the spokesperson said.
"FACS staff opened 10 evacuation centres at the start of the floods and worked alongside more than 200 volunteers to keep the centres in Banora, Bilambil, Kingscliff, Murwillumbah, Mullumbimby, Ocean Shores, Lismore and Ballina running.
"In the immediate aftermath of the floods, accommodation assistance was provided to 1,295 people, including 647 in evacuation centres and 648 in commercial facilities.
"In addition, FACS has also been able to assist a dozen families who lost everything in the floods, with no immediate prospect of returning to their former home, into long term accommodation."