A sad death by a creek ought to wake us up to the tragedy of homelessness

THE lonely death of a woman in a makeshift camp on the banks of Bomaderry Creek is a stark illustration of the issue of homelessness in the Shoalhaven, a problem that is getting worse year on year. 

This mother of 10 in her mid-forties was just one of a growing legion of people in our region who don’t have a place to call home. 

Her untimely death during a period of intensely cold night-time temperatures touched many hearts when the story broke last week. It raised questions about how someone could slip through the cracks in the midst of what we know is a generous community. It made many of us ask ourselves what we could do to prevent this kind of tragedy recurring.

In the short term, alerting the authorities is the first step. The woman had been noticed by passers-by in the days preceding her death. A call to local police with a concern for welfare might just have seen her referred to an agency that could have helped – put her in shelter and checked her medical condition. That would have been a happier outcome than police finding her body.

In the medium term, there is a wonderful new community event, Sleep Out Shoalhaven, scheduled for August 9. It will involve families and groups spending the night out in the open at the Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre to raise funds and, more importantly, awareness about what it’s like to sleep rough. You can find details at www.sleepoutshoalhaven.com.au.

The long-term solution is a much tougher challenge. It involves tackling the root causes of homelessness, of which there are many. Confronting domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse and poverty is just the start but it’s a start a humane society such as ours needs to make. 

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