‘They still have nightmares’: Mum’s horror wait
A CRITICAL lack of affordable private and social housing is forcing families into substandard and unsafe living conditions, a Cairns mum of five says.
When Chloe Sherman needed to find a new home for her and her children, her limited budget left few options.
After turning to the Department of Housing with no luck, Ms Sherman eventually settled for a cabin at Cairns Villa and Leisure Park, scrimping together enough for a bond and to pay $260 a week in rent.
Ms Sherman said she maintained regular contact with the department for a year but could not secure accommodation. Meanwhile, she said her family endured months of exposure to criminal and anti-social behaviour in the Manunda park, which is well-known for being overcrowded and plagued by drug and alcohol abuse.
"We were forced into overcrowded cabins," she said. "It was a disgrace on the Department of Housing, we were crying out for housing and ringing them every second week.
"We were exposed to violent crime, stabbing, bashing, bad language, a lot of the children don't go to school, and we still feel scared."
Now, eight months after leaving, she says her children are still suffering.
"The kids will tell you it was the worst place to be, they still have nightmares," she said.
"They still don't sleep alone because of the nightmares."
A department spokeswoman said Ms Sherman's case could not be discussed for privacy reasons.
However, under the state's Housing Construction Jobs Program 137 new homes would be built in the Cairns region by 2022.
"The department is aware of the Cairns Villa and Leisure Park, and is engaging in active outreach with residents to provide advice on services and products available," she said.
The state has 3517 social housing homes in Cairns.
Under the HCJP, contracts have been awarded for 121 new social housing homes in the Cairns region, with 65 built.
Women and family advocate Yolonde Entsch has dedicated hundreds of hours to the park residents.
Last week she called for service providers to address alleged "abandonment" of at-risk and vulnerable residents at the park after revealing shocking instances of neglect.
Sydney-based owner Tony Breuer said a lengthy waiting list to get into the park was evidence that demand for social housing outstripped supply.
"Obviously there is a need for social and low-cost housing in Cairns … or I would not have any tenants," he said.
"It's fair for Yolonde to shake things up (and) say we (as a community) are not doing enough."
For Ms Sherman and her kids the only way out of a waking "nightmare" of temporary housing was to give up on social housing and rent privately, which she struggled to afford.
"We felt like we were getting nowhere with (community housing)," she said.
Originally published as 'They still have nightmares': Mum's horror wait for social housing