Homeless wasn’t something that 56-year-old Northern Rivers local Scott Butler thought he would add to his portfolio; but the former teacher, principal, and state manager of a large IT company found himself there when his life unravelled after illness.
“People think homelessness is an issue removed from themselves and the people they know, but the reality is, it can happen to anyone — everyday people, sometimes entire families,” Mr Butler said.
“I became homeless when my landlady died and conditions imposed by the new owner made it impossible for me to stay. I was to undergo surgery in a few days’ time and without somewhere to live that couldn’t go ahead,” he said.
Used to writing high level government grants, Mr Butler now found himself in an unfamiliar situation.
“My anxiety was so high I could not even fill out a form without assistance. I was stunned by how incapacitated I had become.”
With the state election set for March, Mr Butler said politicians needed to know homelessness could be a vote decider for Northern Rivers residents.
“This is what we need action on now, and we as the voters are calling for it,” he said.
“Without a home it is very hard to work or to find employment, and you are constantly dealing with the anxiety of not knowing where you will be sleeping, if you will be safe, if you will eat.
“People can’t be expected to contribute to society in any meaningful way when they are under that kind of extreme stress.”
Social Futures Chief Executive Tony Davies said the Northern Rivers was failing locals in need like Mr Butler and the housing situation was at crisis point.
“There are numerous organisations to assist people facing homelessness, but they need accommodation to house people in, and currently we just don’t have it,” Mr Davies said.
“There is a massive shortfall right now in rental properties and fierce competition for the few that are vacant. In some parts of The Northern Rivers social housing waiting lists exceed ten years. That is untenable.
“The state election is just months away and our community has placed this issue front and centre. Our vote is powerful and our voice is powerful. Together we can influence real change.
“If you are a Northern Rivers resident who wants to make a difference visit our website to contact your local MP and make sure this is the issue they hear loud and clear,” Mr Davies said.
Add your voice to the Housing Crisis Campaign at socialfutures.org.au/whats-it-going-to-take where you will find contact details for local members and candidates, sample letters and the list of six key actions from the Northern Rivers Housing Forum.