It reads almost like a Yes, Minister script – the Department of Housing evicting its own tenants, in order to build a facility for…homeless people. Yet remarkably, the evidence is there in black and white, in the form of ‘relocation’ notices distributed to the residents of the Alexandra Terraces in Camperdown.
The Common Ground housing initiative, announced in early August, takes a more holistic approach to homelessness than traditional solutions, by offering residency along with a variety of social services. But although Minister Borger said at the time of the announcement that all efforts would be made to allay residents’ concerns, this has not been the experience of the people on the proposed Common Ground site.
“They had what they laughingly called an information session, and the people they sent knew less than I did. It was a shambles,” said local resident Paula Murray, who although not herself threatened by eviction, is leading the campaign against the proposal. “There was absolutely nothing given to anybody – no consultation at all.”
Although the majority of the land earmarked for the Common Ground proposal is currently occupied by a park, the plan requires more space than is available, resulting in the proposals to demolish at least four terraces.
Ms Murray said an earlier version of the plan envisaged relocating residents to the Johanna O’Dea apartments complex, but that it had been dropped in favour of erecting an all-new building alongside.
Gaye Kennedy’s mother Iris lives in one of the terraces earmarked for demolition, and is suffering from the onset of dementia. “To take her out of this environment…honestly, I think she’ll die,” she said. “She’s close to the hospital, she has a carer that comes in – she only leaves the house once a week if I’m not here.”
Ms Kennedy and her brother live in Mudgee, seven hours’ drive from her mother.
With the Johanna O’Dea complex scheduled for demolition within the next five years, some residents also highlighted the medium-term potential for the entire block to be sold off to developers.
The Department of Housing failed to respond to questions by the time of going to press.