'Poppa' Bill is another side of Tweed homeless crisis
"POPPA” Bill Short lives in a broken-down camper next to the banks of the Tweed River at Chinderah and says he'll "probably die” there.
It's not an outcome that worries him, but one he's come to terms with, admitting he's "had a good life” and is at peace with the way it might end.
The 73-year-old's wife died last year, and now his main companion in life is a deaf cat he named after her.
It doesn't come when it's called and he suggests his kids don't like the connection, but there's a small part of him reassured by its presence, and he says he likes the company.
"Poppa” Bill represents part of the Tweed homeless crisis. There was a time, not so long ago, when he ran successful towing and service station businesses, had a house in Kingscliff, but a stretch of bad luck following the death of his wife led to him initially living on a houseboat that sank, and then in a camper that broke down around the time of the flood and was inundated.
"I can't afford to live in a house,” he said.
"I lost my wife last year and couldn't stand the house any longer. After 54-years of marital bliss, I just had too many memories, mate, and I had to change my life. So that's when I went and bought the boat and lost that. So I pulled this (van) out of storage.
"Everybody knows me because I had the service station here and a service station at Kingscliff and a service station at Murwillumbah and they think, 'Geez, he's a rich bugger, what's he doing bludging there?' But when my wife died, unbeknown to me, three months before she died she changed her will.”
"Poppa” Bill said he would continue living the way he does even if offered social housing or crisis accommodation because there are others who needed support more.
"I feel there's more need for families to have those places than a single guy,” he said.
"I've seen families sleeping in this area.
"There's two blokes just down the road here, and one is in a van, a normal van, and he has three kids and nowhere to live.
"There's a problem in the whole of Australia, mate, not just here. I've searched and my daughter has searched and there's just nothing affordable.
"People live like this because there's no options.
"Even in a caravan park if you go with a tent it's going to cost $300-$400 a week.”