‘People sleep in cars, sheds, even the open’

“THE kids are okay, but the adults are not,” says Tim Size. “It used to be young people who were couch surfing, but now it’s entire families.”

That’s Captain Tim Size of the Salvation Army in the Derwent Valley, talking about the challenge that is homelessness around New Norfolk today.

“You combine the lack of houses with rising food and fuel costs, the result is people unable to find or afford a roof over their heads,” says Tim. “People here in the Valley are sleeping in cars, in sheds, even in the open, in the cold. I’ve never seen so much homelessness.”

Tim Size, with his wife Di and the other Salvos in the Derwent Valley, is concerned that there is no reserve of houses locally, and no stock of rental properties, so landlords are able to charge high rents. When he came to New Norfolk eight years ago, a three-bedroom home was available for $230 a week. “A while back it was up to $300 and $350,” he says. “Now it’s close to $500 a week – doubled in just eight years.

“If they have relatives here, there’s not enough room for them to sleep in the house. The adults are sleeping in their cars in the driveway. And when houses get crowded, that’s when fights start,” says Tim Size. “Around the Valley, people don’t talk about these issues,” he continues. “And the homeless themselves don’t want to talk about it either, often for reasons of pride. You see people walk by … you wouldn’t know that they’re homeless. You cannot tell.”

Captain Size believes the pressures on local housing stem from an expanding population in Hobart and surrounds. “This has driven people to New Norfolk, the very edge of the broader population frontier,” he says. “And the problem is there’s no further people can go – we are at the farthest point of that spread. There’s nothing beyond here, unless you go to Queenstown. People are stuck.”

He points to another significant change in local conditions, the loss of available support services, including mental health. “It used to be there were places people could go for help around the Valley,” he says. “Not any more. “I’ve come across people who’ve been put in a house that’s got a carpet and nothing else – no furniture, pots and pans … nothing.

While we at the Salvos try to fill some of the gaps, there’s only so many resources we can draw on. “On top of that, there are those with mental health issues. “Perhaps they do have accommodation, but for whatever reason, decide to have friends stay with them. Next thing, the house is damaged, and they get evicted for breaking the rules and there’s literally nowhere for them to go.”

Searching for an answer is part of Tim’s mission. “We need to be more compassionate for those around us,” he says. “We should be doing more for those with these issues, specially mental health. We need to help people. “And above all, know this: Everybody should have a roof over their heads.”