Home is where the heart is: Intentional Communities
Every night in Noosa at least 200 people are sleeping rough and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, many more fly under the radar. Ingrid Nelson caught up with local independent MP Sandy Bolton, who is passionate about changing the narrative around homelessness and providing affordable housing for those in our community who need it most.
When it comes to being an advocate for the homeless, Sandy Bolton speaks straight from the heart. As a true local and someone who has personally experienced what it’s like to fall on hard times, she is more than qualified to be the voice for so many in the Noosa community who are finding it tough to make ends meet when it comes to paying the rent or mortgage.
And while it’s plain to see those who are taking shelter in our local parks, Sandy says it’s those we can’t see who are just as vulnerable.
“There is a label around homeless people that historically people have related to a certain image,” says Sandy.
“Over the last 30 years this has morphed and changed. They can be everyday people you work with who are going home at the end of the day and sleeping in their car or on a friend’s couch.
“When you look back in history, there were boarding houses available or affordable shared housing but we don’t have that anymore.”
With an increase in property prices and rental costs in the region, Sandy says it is becoming almost impossible for our youth to rent or buy a home. Those working in our key industries of hospitality, tourism and retail, which are often casual positions, are also a high-risk cohort.
Passionate about raising awareness and removing the long-held stigma around homelessness, Sandy will play a key role in a newly formed action group due to meet later this month to help tackle the crisis.
“A lack of affordable living poses both a social and economic issue and for many, a mental health issue as well. When our workers can’t find housing, our businesses are put under duress to access staff as more people have to move to other locations,” says Sandy.
“When our residents are living under extreme housing pressures, paying up to 80 per cent of their weekly income on rent or mortgage, the ramifications include a disintegration of our social and economic strength.”
So what exactly is affordable housing and how can we work towards building a better future for those who are struggling to meet the rising costs of living?
“Affordable housing is not social housing, nor is it public or council housing. It’s the provision of housing for those who can’t afford to pay the rents and house prices generally experienced in and around highly sought-after locations such as Noosa.
“It is a multi-faceted issue that cannot be resolved by one project, planning scheme amendments, nor initiatives.
“We have to tackle it on all fronts, with a clear understanding of the challenges. The biggest hurdle is finding suitable and affordable sites in the region.
“Whether through tiny homes, demountable or reconfigured spaces, we can create intentional, affordable living for our community. This is not a new concept. Retirement villages are one example of such a model.”
Fifty-five-year-old Nicole Cleary’s journey is testament to the difficulties some of our Noosa residents are facing with when it comes to finding an affordable housing solution.
After 25 years giving back to our community through her role with the local RSPCA, Nicole is now struggling to pay $500 per week in rent for a property she currently shares with her son.
“Like so many others, we would love a place we can call ours, where we can live with intent to continue delivering to our community and connect communally,” says Nicole.
“When I went to the Tiny Home Expo held here last year, I was so excited. Consider, a similar setup to retirement villages, utilising demountables, with a communal area and an outlook into the bush. How fabulous would that be?”
Removing the homelessness stigma is high on the agenda with many people reluctant to open up to friends or family if they are experiencing hardship.
“I think we’ve hit a tipping point. I have been on this trail for three years now and it’s time to start doing something about it,” says Sandy. “We need to take away the labels. The reason a lot of people won’t talk about it is because they don’t want to be judged.
“Some people just want to live more intentionally. They don’t want to work 60 hours a week just to have a roof over their heads. They want to be able to give time volunteering or giving back to the community.
“Let’s build a village with the focus on our people and their needs. It starts with us.”