‘It’s like you’re a criminal.’
JANINE Hall is the face of the Tweed Shire’s affordable housing crisis.
For most nights over the last two years, the 51-year-old has slept in a tent erected in a local park.
She is often woken in the early hours of the morning by police shining a spotlight in her face, threatening to fine her if she doesn’t move along.
“The Queensland cops say get over to NSW and NSW cops say get over to Qld,” she said.
In the morning she packs away and hides her tent and then spends the rest of the day wandering the streets.
She once had a steady job at a Banora Point aged care home where she worked for seven years.
But personal problems and the stresses of the job where she experienced residents she’d grown attached to die, caused an emotional break down.
Unable to cope with going back to work, she fell behind in her rent and was kicked out by her landlord.
She placed her belongings in a storage shed but ended up losing them all when she could no longer afford to pay the fees. If it wasn’t for the local charities which provide free meals she reckons she’d be “six foot under”.
Janine says the biggest impediment to getting back on her feet is the lack of affordable accommodation.
She survives on a $501 fortnightly Newstart allowance.
“Even to share a room in someone’s house I’m looking at $200 a week which doesn’t leave me much left over,” she said.
“So how do I get ahead?”
During the recent bout of rainy weather, her son defied the rules of his public housing unit by insisting she stay with him.
Occasionally she couch surfs or sleeps in a friend’s car.
We meet in the park near the Tweed Heads library and Janine points out four other homeless women in the vicinity.
She confesses that she wonders whether her life is worth living.
“I just wander around all day,” she says.
“I’m a nobody now. I just don’t feel like I fit anywhere now.
“To be homeless, it’s like you’re a criminal. Basically society sweeps us under the carpet.”
Thirteen local community service workers recently told a forum at Tweed Heads the lack of affordable housing was the number one crisis facing the region with some forced to live in tents, storage containers and cars.