Voice of Real Australia: The chilling reality behind our housing crisis

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by Executive Editor James Joyce.

Jonathan 'Budgie' Williams with one of his two staffy dogs outside his family's tent home at Mt Pleasant in Tasmania's North. Picture: Scott Gelston

Jonathan 'Budgie' Williams with one of his two staffy dogs outside his family's tent home at Mt Pleasant in Tasmania's North. Picture: Scott Gelston

You may be aware that Tasmania can get pretty bloody cold.

Biting winds and frozen temperatures are, as Gladys Berejiklian might say, "operation normal".

But since the weird and wonderful Dark Mofo first brought subversive delights (and an influx of mainland sophisticates) to Hobart during the coldest time of the year, people the nation over have flocked to experience winter in the state's South. Whereas six years ago, you might have been laughed out of the room if you said you were planning a June holiday in Tasmania.

In the midst of all the fire and feasts the festival has to offer, it's easy to forget that the state is in the grips of a housing and homelessness crisis - one that's all the more pronounced during the unforgiving Tasmanian winter.

The legacy issue of Tasmania's public housing debt has aggravated the crisis. It's also being fuelled by a lack of both supply and sufficient forward planning by successive state governments.

While the problems are most evident in the South, the rest of the state is increasingly being drawn in to the crisis, compelling a once homeless Launceston woman to step in and do her bit for a man in whom she saw a reflection of her former self.

Of course, homelessness isn't limited to Tassie. The Canberra Times' Sherryn Groch recently got an insight into the plight of rough sleepers in the nation's capital, while Charlie Elias of the Port Stephens Examiner and Roxanne Fitzgerald of the Katherine Times have both reported increasing homelessness in their patches this year.

Meanwhile, in Wollongong, creative ways of dulling the sting of homelessness have been explored, such as the fostering of a homeless-friendly atmosphere in local libraries, as well as the provision of free flu shots for disadvantaged people.

As Australia's population increases at a phenomenal rate, it's important to acknowledge that the associated growing pains affect not just the big cities but the regions too.

Homelessness might be "operation normal" right now, but with a bit of ingenuity, awareness and community spirit, it doesn't have to be that way forever.

Rob Inglis

The Examiner

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