CLOSE TO THE HEART: John Lee, from You Have A Friend, has been distributing food to the homeless at Chinderah.
CLOSE TO THE HEART: John Lee, from You Have A Friend, has been distributing food to the homeless at Chinderah. Scott Davis

Homeless should have a space at Stotts Island: John Lee

THERE are calls for the council to set aside a space at Stotts Island where homeless people won't face fines, harassment or be asked to move on.

We Have a Friend founder John Lee said the homeless situation in the Tweed was at crisis point and people were fast running out of options.

"The Tweed Shire Council, they closed (Bruce Chick Park at) Stotts Creek ... they closed that in 2015,” he said. "It was a perfect spot, absolutely perfect, and it had toilets - ok, they needed some work - but there were places people could park.

"That was a place where they were hurting no one, there was only cane farms around but they closed that for ecology reasons and the people had to move, so they moved over to Cudgen.”

A recent council crackdown led to a group living out of vehicles being evicted from a Kingscliff reserve. Many shifted to a nature strip at Chinderah.

But Mr Lee said council rangers and police patrolled the area and people were made to shift vehicles and resort to other tactics to beat fines.

He said the issue was primarily a state matter but he believed the Council could play a role and designate the Stotts Island park a haven.

He said a vehicle or trailer could sometimes be the difference between life and death for someone without a home. This was the case for a Chinderah man who died after taking to sleeping in local parks and bus shelters in recent months. He was a long-term resident - not one of the recent arrivals - but his death nevertheless highlighted the challenges those on the streets face.

Tweed Shire Council has a meeting planned with Mr Lee on March 24 where the Stotts Island solution will be discussed.

"(We will) hopefully have progress on any action after council staff and the mayor meet with You Have a Friend in a couple of weeks,” a council spokesman said.

"Tweed Shire Council has not received any application or submission for a space for the homeless within Bruce Chick Park but council staff and the mayor will be meeting with Mr John Lee... to further discuss his concerns and ideas.”

Tweed MP Geoff Provest planned to be included in the conversations between Mr Lee and the council and said he also wanted other support providers included.



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