EVEN the Virgin Mary was allowed a space in a stable but it appears that same “luxury” is not being afforded to homeless people living at the Nowra Showground.
A number of the people living in tents at the showground and especially around the stables area, which they have used to shelter out of the weather, were issued with “eviction notices” on Friday, directing them to move on.
The letters, delivered by Shoalhaven City Council rangers, explained the area was required for the NSW Holstein Cattle sale and show which will be held at the showground on Friday and Saturday, August 26-27.
The event will use the majority of the showground facilities and surrounds south of the Worrigee Street entrance, with cattle expected to arrive from the Monday of that week, and preparations expected to start from August 15.
The letter states “for the safety of campers and other users of the showground all campsites south of the Worrigee Street entrance (stables, cattle yards, cattle area and surrounds) must relocate to the approved camping area” - which is on the western side of the complex, between the main arena and Ben’s Walk.
The letter also stated the camping area would be available for 14 days short stay camping during the show.
This raised concerns for a number of the homeless people at the showground, firstly fearing they would be again placed out in the open at the mercy of the elements and would then be “moved on” after 14 days.
They raised questions with the Homeless Hub, with Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna Gash invited to visit the showground and met with one homeless person, Alex, who has been living there for three weeks.
He told the mayor about his life, how he had moved five times to different locations within the showground and his desire to get as job.
“I’ve been in and out of hospital waiting for surgery for a broken hand and I came back to my tent and found this eviction notice,” he said.
“I didn’t know what to make of it and don’t know where I will go.
“I would love to get a job but the small things like not having a home address makes it hard.
“I have a good work history and references but I don’t have a place to live. It is hard find work when you don’t know where you are going to be next week.”
He said suggestions had been made that he move to the “caves in the cliffs” overlooking the Shoalhaven River.
“That’s not safe and surely in the 21st century we don’t have to live like that.”
Cr Gash said she would look into the issue and find out what was happening.
“I know the area is being used for a cattle show and council requested everyone move to the designated camping area,” she said.
“I’ll find out what council is proposing. We are having a big think tank session coming up with all three levels of government, church leaders, stakeholders and community housing to discuss options for emergency accommodation for homeless people in the Shoalhaven during extreme weather conditions.”
That meeting will be held on August 17.
“I’m conscious of Alex’s story but we are also getting stories from the other side. We are getting reports of fires being lit up here which are not allowed. We have to look at both sides,” Cr Gash said.
Shoalhaven Homeless Hub manager Kerri Snowden said it was a positive move the mayor went and spoke to the “temporary residents”.
“At least the mayor was able to see first hand the conditions in which the homeless are living at the showground,” she said.
“Many are not there by choice.
“They are again going to be moved out into the open, into the elements.
“They need somewhere secure. Somewhere they can get access to a shower and toilet so they can feel human.
“And they need somewhere to be able to shelter in times of extreme weather. Just to get out of the wind or rain and stay dry and warm.”
In the meantime the weather forecast for the rest of the week is for temperatures not to top 15 degrees, with possible showers and rain. Spare a thought for those living rough and hope for those at the showground the weather doesn’t turn nasty again while they are out in the open in the designated camping area.