Bay Street business owner Barbara Cook does not want Whitehall Lodge turned into a homeless drop-in shelter.
Bay Street business owner Barbara Cook does not want Whitehall Lodge turned into a homeless drop-in shelter. Crystal Spencer

Homeless shelter not wanted

PLANS to reinvigorate the Tweed Heads CBD have again hit a snag, with a homeless drop-in shelter proposed for Whitehall Lodge in Bay Street.

Local business owners, including Cafe Lazumba proprietor Barbara Cook, yesterday urged Tweed MP Geoff Provest to look somewhere else for his plan to provide a shelter for the region's homeless.

“This street is supposed to be the central business district; we need a bit more life than homeless people,” Ms Cook said.

She was supported by most of the businesses approached yesterday, including a law firm, fabric shop and vacuum cleaner store.

Rumours about the proposed shelter are flying around the area, but no one has had any official correspondence with the Government about the plans, and even Tweed Shire Council was in the dark yesterday.

Diane Berg, manager of Tweed Ultima Apartments said it would be a poor planning decision to turn Whitehall Lodge into a drop-in shelter. “We have a rapidly growing tourist accommodation and conference business we feel is part of an improving, vibrant heart of Tweed Heads and Coolangatta,” Ms Berg said.

“It is not a suitable location for a homeless shelter or drop-in centre and we think it would be a poor planning decision to create one.”

While steps have been made in the revitalisation of the CBD, with a Wharf Street development completed and a tourist information centre under construction, there have been set-backs, including the loss of funding for the beautification of Jack Evans Boat Harbour and a battle against a perception that the Gateway to the Tweed was “sleazy”.

Mr Provest said the effort to secure a drop-in centre for the Tweed was a whole-of-community effort. He said the process started back in February and he was working with 38 community organisations and businesses to make it happen.

“I have been working on this tirelessly, and my goal is to have something operating before Christmas,” Mr Provest said.

He admitted that any time a homeless refuge was planned, local residents became upset, but he said a great example was the Matthew Talbot refuge in Sydney, which existed harmoniously with local business.

“What we are planning, even if we did settle on using Whitehall Lodge, would actually improve it,” Mr Provest said.

“Wherever the facility goes, there will be the strictest security involved.”

He rattled off some “startling” facts, and said a shelter on the Tweed would help curb the situation on the streets, which was causing community angst.

He said there were 184 “rough sleepers”, plus at least 100 youths “couch surfing” on the Tweed Coast every night, and more than 80 children were removed from their home by the Department of Community Services every year.

On top of that, Mr Provest said there was nine per cent unemployment on the Tweed, with youth unemployment in the double figures and the number of mortgages under stress had almost doubled.

When told of the proposal, Mayor Joan van Lieshout said the location might not be seen as desirable for the area.

Cr van Lieshout said she was all for taking care of the homeless, and understood they may need somewhere that they could walk to, but was not convinced Bay Street was an appropriate location for a drop-in shelter.



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