Homelessness

1. Overview

Many Australians are at risk of experiencing homelessness and sleeping rough in our cities and Byron Shire is not an exception.  

Access to safe and secure housing is one of the most basic human rights. In our current Homelessness Policy, Council recognises that "all people have a right to housing that meets their individual needs and that all people have a right to enjoy public open spaces for activities that do not create an adverse impact on the rights of other users in the community". When people are unable to access adequate housing and are homeless, this is a social justice issue.

Statistics show that numbers and rates of people sleeping rough in Byron Shire are much higher than you might expect. The impact on individual people and our communities is growing quickly despite the fact that the community is working hard to respond. Supports are limited in availability and type and cannot respond to the volume and complexity of what is required to reduce rough sleeping in a meaningful way. Also, Byron Shire has very limited housing options: there is no emergency or temporary accommodation, very little social housing, and areas within the Shire are among the most unaffordable in Australia. Byron Bay itself has the the highest unaffordability on Australia's east coast (see  below).

 Table 1: Housing unaffordability – comparison data

Local Government Area

Ave. rent

Ave. household income

Percentage

Byron Bay (Byron)

$590

$1,218

48%

Woollahra (Sydney)

$800

$1,814

44%

Brighton (Melbourne)

$650

$1,532

42%

Eatons Hill (Brisbane)

$510

$1,312

39%

 

 (Source: Compass Housing Services, 2018)

We are partnering with local services and our community to address homelessness.  Other initiatives and ongoing work is under discussion, including increasing the number of staff dedicated to homelessness issues and a full review of our current policy.  Keep coming to this page for updates!

We know there are many thoughtful and generous people who are concerned about the situation of homeless people in our shire. For more information or to get involved,  email the Rough Sleeping inbox. Please note: for complaints and other similar issues refer to our Report it page, rather than contacting the Rough Sleeping inbox.

2. Street Counts

The street counts aim to collect up-to-date information about the number of people sleeping rough in the local area. The goal is to benefit the lives of people sleeping rough and reduce homelessness and its impact in our shire. Results are used to provide a local snapshot of rough sleeping hotspots, advocate for resources to achieve long-term solutions, and help us track change over time. 

The Street Count happens in partnership between Byron Community Centre, Mullumbimby District Neighborhood Centre, Social Futures, Momentum, The Family Centre, NSW Health, Byron Shire Council and other members of our community. No personal data is collected and the location of rough-sleepers is not published.

The street count of August 2019 found that 171 people are sleeping rough in three hot spots of our Shire. This is an 18% increase from 145 people found in August 2018 in the same areas. While this is definitely not the trend we want to see, we  keep working together and advocating hard for local assertive outreach services and supported housing solutions in Byron Shire. 

3. Homelessness Interagency

A group of agencies operating in Byron Shire are coming together in a new regular Homelessness Interagency Meeting dedicated to discuss homelessness issues in our community.  The Interagency is a network of services and agencies committed to preventing homelessness and supporting people experiencing homelessness. Council is supporting the organisation of ongoing meetings to discuss and coordinate strategies to support people experiencing homelessness. 

4. Wallet Card

Council has published a Wallet Card that contains useful information for people seeking housing support. Printed copies of the card will be distributed among homeless people seeking information about where to find help and who to contact in an emergency.   

 Download Emergency Contacts Wallet Card(PDF, 181KB)