Families sleep in cars – homeless numbers double
By Michael Sinclair-Jones
Did you know that Toodyay has 50 homeless people – including children – some of whom live in tents and cars on cold winter nights?
The number of homeless people in Toodyay has doubled this year, with more families living in cars, tents and sleeping bags, sometimes out in the open.
Local carer Roz Davidson said numbers peaked at 74 last month before falling this month to about 50 as nights grew colder.
One family with two children had moved into a shed in the Toodyay townsite after leaving a ramshackle house with mildewed walls that the landlord was selling.
“I have no idea how they keep warm at night,” Roz said.Read more
Another person aged in their 70s was living alone in what Roz called an “abject hovel” in the Toodyay townsite.
She said about 25 homeless people – including 17 children – recently moved to Perth where more support services were available.
There were more homeless women – some fleeing domestic violence – in Toodyay than there were men.
Roz said her Toodyay Locals Care group had given more than 25 free blankets and doonas to homeless local people last month.
The group also provided half a dozen two-person dome tents and seven single sleeping bags donated by local church members.
“I also gave away three solar mobile phone chargers that were donated,” Roz said.
Roz said that every morning she collected a supermarket trolley full of food that had reached its use-by date that day, donated by Toodyay’s IGA store.
The donations included milk and fruit juice.
“I collected 30 litres of juice from there today” Roz said.
Store owner Dean Carter said this had been happening for three or four years.
“Better that than throw it away,” Mr Carter said.
Roz said IGA donations were used to cook 100 hot meals a week for homeless people.
“They get paid fortnightly by Social Security and come to us when they run out of money the following week,” Roz said.
“Most people who come in the night are people in their 30s.
“Some come looking for food at two in the morning.
“We provide frozen cooked dinners in plastic containers which homeless people can cook in a microwave oven on our front veranda (in Fiennes Street opposite the Toodyay Freemason’s Hall) or take to where they are sleeping that night.”
Roz said most homeless women were “couch surfers” who stayed a few days or weeks at the homes of friends or relatives before moving elsewhere, sometimes after arguments with their hosts.
Others lived in vehicles under car ports or parked out in the open.
One family living in a car included a mother with young children who went to hospital at the end of last month to give birth to another child.
Others lived out in the open in tents at secret locations to avoid discovery for fear of being told to move on by Shire of Toodyay rangers or police.
“Mostly you never see them because they stay under the radar and out of sight,” Roz said.
About a third of Toodyay’s homeless population were Aboriginal people.