While many grey nomads worry that the character of caravan parks is changing for the worse as they accommodate more short-term housing, there is a wider social trend at play.
As property and rental prices soar around the country, a chronic housing shortage has created massive issues for many desperate people struggling to keep a roof over their head.
Similarly, remote campsites can sometimes appear ‘untidy’ with some campers clearly staying long term, rather than a few days or so like conventional travellers.
The ABC recently investigated the issue. In a state forest on the NSW Mid North Coast, its reporters spoke to a group of people who have been living there, in some cases, for a full year. The Forestry Corporation only allows four-week stays and has just informed the campers at the Coopernook State Forest that they have to move on.
Most have no idea what they will do next.
“We’ve been here for three months now and I know we’re supposed to go, but there’s nowhere to go,” Eric Wade told the ABC. “We don’t really want to go into the bush too much further because no-one will know where we are, the ambulance won’t know where we are if something happens to us.”
Mick Kreutz has also been living at the free campsite for several months.
“I never thought I would be in this position,” he said. “Trying to find a place is too hard … there’s just nothing available.”
He told the ABC that public housing services had told him that the wait time for an appropriate house, even with his priority listing, was still 18 months.
According to the Samaritans Foundation, people on low incomes are sitting on public housing waiting lists for five to 10 years while they compete for private rentals.
Suzie Rowe, specialist service for homelessness coordinator at the Samaritans Foundation, said one of the largest contributing factors to homelessness along the mid-north coast of NSW was the lack of affordable housing.
“Rents have skyrocketed, we’re looking at 50-plus people going for a one or two-bedroom property,” she told the ABC. “I think we need more affordable housing in our communities to support our homeless.”