Our hidden shame

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Mothers and their children sleeping in cars and elderly residents trying to find warmth under Victoria Bridge – homelessness in Penrith is a critical issue according to support groups.

John Toms has been working with homeless people for 41 years, including at Torton Place in Penrith, and says that action is desperately needed.

“The situation in Penrith at the moment would be described as chaotic. The amount of people sleeping in their cars or on the streets is ludicrous,” he said.

“We have elderly people sleeping under Victoria Bridge, mothers with their young babies sleeping in their cars behind the caravan park, it is not just homeless men but people of all ages.”

Mr Toms said that due to the competitive housing market and state of the economy, homelessness has become a serious issue.

“People are being told to apply in the private market, but there are up to 50 applicants for each house, not to mention that people just don’t have the income to afford private housing,” he said.

“Penrith residents are ending up on the street, unable to find accommodation in the city either because the refuges are full, and are suffering.”

According to Homelessness Australia, 10 per cent of homeless people live in makeshift housing. Mr Toms is calling for a summit on homelessness to establish a Penrith refuge to help these people. He has the support of well-known community identities Ross Hutchison and Roger Borg.

The idea of the summit is to try and get a refuge built in Penrith.

Penrith Councillor John Thain fully supports an intergovernmental summit on homelessness.

“I am not blaming anyone, this is not a political issue. After the global financial crisis and the way the rental market has gone, it is a reality that many of us haven’t actually realised,” he said.

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