The Covid pandemic has led to a well-documented rise in interest in the caravan and camping lifestyle, but it’s not just young families and digital nomads who are suddenly desperate to find a caravan park site.
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.
And many borderline homeless people have looked to caravan parks to offer short-term housing.
Late last year, Perth Hills Caravan Park announced it was only going to allow long-term residents to stay, in the hopes of combating the city’s ‘through the roof’ housing crisis.
And in Busselton in WA’s south-west, the worsening rental crisis has seen an unprecedented number of local families looking to find refuge at tourist parks.
The manager of one local park, Natalie Darby, said she had never seen such demand.
“We have no semi long-term accommodation available and are receiving at least a dozen calls a day,” she said. “We try to help out where we can, but we simply can’t fit any more long-term people in the park.”
It means that many families are being turned away and forced to sleep in their cars or camp in the bush. Unfortunately, this is also having other unwanted knock-on effects.
There is real worry in some areas that this surge in unregulated camping could have tragic consequence in the event of bushfire.
And there are concerns that long-term campers at established remote campsites are changing their nature.
The City of Greater Bendigo, for example, has moved recently to close Huntly Lions Park, which has long provided a short-term camping ground for travellers passing through the region.
The council says that people had been using the site as their place of permanent residence and there had been a growing number of complaints about anti-social behaviour and cleanliness.
The problem, of course, is that many of the homeless campers at Huntly and elsewhere simply have nowhere else to go.
Jarrod Gillespie recently got in touch with the Grey Nomad Times to tell his story. Jarrod has been living in his car and tent and staying in the bush, at reserves, or behind toilet blocks in the Warrnambool area in Victoria. He says he became homeless after a bad experience in public housing.
“There were drunks and users of ice crystal amphetamines there,” he said. “One attacked my house and had no memory of what he was doing … it just wasn’t good.”
Jarrod says more should be done to help homeless people get back on their feet, and that caravan parks could have an important role to play by offering longer stays and lower fees.
“When you are homeless you just cannot function normally every day,” he said.