Homeless woman a timely reminder others are 'doing it tough'

Bedding and a few meagre possessions next to a park toilet block at Sutherland are a reminder that Christmas is not so cheery for many.

An elderly homeless woman has been living in the park for almost a year, often disappearing during the day and returning at night.

The upright figure in photos is a clothes horse, and the mattress lies under a blue tarpaulin.

Woronora Valley resident Don Page, who was concerned how she would spend Christmas, said, “While the rest of us share the season with family and friends, her Christmas will likely be spent on a mattress in the park under a blue tarpaulin, as she has done for a year now, rain or shine”.

“I know not what brought her to this state, nor her personal history, but perhaps we in the shire need reminding that not all of us share a comfortable lifestyle. Some are doing it tough,” Mr Page said.

Wesley Mission has been trying to make contact with the woman, but says “previous attempts have been mostly unwelcome and offers of assistance declined”.

Rob Seaton, Wesley Mission’s operations manager, specialist homelessness services, said they would continue to “try to engage” with her.

Mr Seaton said if their approach was accepted, they would offer temporary accommodation, and then all the support necessary to obtain permanent accommodation, along with other assistance.

Mr Seaton said Wesley Mission had worked with more than 120 homeless people in the shire this year.

“Much of that has been helping people when tenancies become vulnerable,” he said.

Rough-sleeper patrols were also conducted.

Mr Seaton said they supported a similar number of people to those suggested in the Homeless Shire Registry Week of 2015, which was about 30-40, “remembering that rough sleeping is only the tip of the iceberg”.

“There are an unknown number of people living in the national park,” he said.

One Meal Sutherland founder and volunteer Matt Harward said the homeless woman at Sutherland, who had previously lived at Gunnamatta Park and other places in the shire, suffered mental illness.

“She does have family, but insists she needs her own space,” he said.

“She comes to us when she is desperate.”

One Meal Sutherland is a food service run every Sunday for the homeless and underprivileged.

“We have just received sponsorship from The Prince hotel to operate a Thursday night service as well,” he said.

“Miranda RSL Club is also considering funding another night of the week.”

Mr Harward said their big Christmas lunch would be on Sunday and, on Christmas Day, most of the people they cared for, would attend the John Franklin Christmas Lunch at the Sutherland Entertainment Centre.