When Carine Sheridan moved to the Bega Valley from Sydney to escape domestic violence, she had dreams of a fresh start for herself and her three children in south-eastern New South Wales.
- There are fears more families escaping domestic violence will be pushed into homelessness as the rental crisis continues in NSW
- Carine Sheridan has been homeless for the past two months after struggling to find a rental in the Bega Valley
- Advocates say vacant land in the region should be used for temporary housing but the council says the process is “complex”
But after settling in a rental home that she felt unsafe in, she faced a difficult choice; to stay, against her better judgment, or leave and risk homelessness.
Ms. Sheridan was living in Towamba, west of Eden, which had the most affordable rent. When she moved four years ago Ms. Sheridan secured a property for $220 a week.
But she alleged her landlord continued to come into the home unannounced — an issue she took to the rental tribunal.
“The hardest thing to stomach is that I’m powerless,” Ms. Sheridan said.
“I can’t stay in a house where the landlord is letting himself in while my daughter is home alone.”
Ms. Sheridan chose to leave the property, knowing that homelessness was a possibility.
Two months ago, it became her reality. No solution is in sight as NSW’s rental shortage worsens.
“My social worker advised me not to leave but I had no choice — my kids and I were not safe,” she said.
“We were moved to emergency accommodation at Merimbula until we were told to leave to make room for tourists.”
Frequent moving takes toll
While Ms. Sheridan can afford a rental, she has been unable to secure one.
She has been using the service Link2Home, a NSW government agency providing referrals to homelessness support and accommodation services, to find short-term accommodation, as well as moving between hotels.
“I have to call them [Link2Home] at four o’clock every day to confirm if we will have a roof over heads that night,” she said.
The constant moving around became too much for Ms. Sheridan’s daughter, who returned to Sydney to stay with her father, while her two sons remained in a local school.
“I’m so blessed to have a grounded son who is doing his HSC, but it’s really hard for my younger son,” Ms Sheridan said.
“I’m not sure how much longer I can tell him we are on a big, exciting adventure.”
More land needs
Mick Brosnan from Social Justice Advocates of the Sapphire Coast says a growing number of families are struggling to find rentals in south-east NSW.
He has called for the Bega Valley Shire Council to do more to make vacant land available for temporary housing for people in situations like Ms Sheridan’s.
“There’s a block of land in Eden, it’s been vacant for years. It’s in a residential area and it’s zoned for community use,” he said.
“We have the resources to build temporary housing, but the council continues to ignore my questions.
“People in our region are suffering and the council does not believe housing is their responsibility.”
The council’s chief executive Anthony McMahon confirmed it was working with state and federal governments to increase housing affordability and social housing in the region.
He said all levels of government had a role to play in creating housing policy for everyone.
“Staff have also been considering options for temporary accommodation on other vacant public land in Eden,” Mr McMahon said.
“However, the framework to enable temporary accommodation on vacant public land is complex.”
During the 2021 census period, 2,914 vacant houses were recorded in the Bega Valley compared to 3,048 in 2016.