Woman holds hands together looking into the darkness of her caravan

Evicted caravan park tenants fear homelessness as demolition of accommodation begins

Kim Berry prays that she does not end up homeless in a few months’ time.

The 54-year-old, along with other low-income tenants at a NSW Central Coast caravan park, will have their tenancy agreements terminated in November as a lifestyle village is built in its place.

“It’s heartbreaking to see the despair on people’s faces,” Ms Berry said.

“I’ve seen it affect people mentally. People who didn’t have anxiety and depression, now do.”

In the suburb of Wadalba, Homeland Park has been a savior for many.

Caravans and cabins, with rent below market rates, primarily house people over the age of 50.

The Wadalba caravan park sits next to far more modern developments.(ABC Central Coast: Sophie Wainwright)

Some live with medical conditions and disability.

But it will soon blend in with the modern houses surrounding it as the site is transformed into an affordable land lease community.

With approval granted in 2019, residents have been aware of the plans for about five years, but say they cannot afford to buy one of the manufactured houses.

“It was always there at the back of my mind that the day was coming,” Ms Berry said.

She argued governments and other agencies should have assisted residents with alternative housing during that time.

Two workers on site from the view of inside a caravan
Parts of empty caravans and their contents are already being dismantled and dumped.(ABC Central Coast: Sophie Wainwright)

Residents unsettled by demolition

Parts of the park are already being demolished.

Ms Berry said having it around you all the time “gets to ya.”

“Every day, hammer bang, hammer bang — our time is getting closer and we’re struggling to find places to go,” she said.

Ms Berry added that she was stuck in her house for a couple of hours last week as workers from another company removed asbestos nearby.

Man sits in a chair in his cabin
Bill Dewdney says he has a heart condition and form of leukemia.(ABC Central Coast: Sophie Wainwright)

Bill Dewdney hoped to spend the rest of his life at the caravan park but now said his nerves were “shot” by the demolition works around him.

“They don’t seem to realize the stress that’s brought on,” Mr Dewdney said.

The 78-year-old, who has health problems, said getting into the private rental market with his pension was competitive and the social housing waitlist was long.

“I’ve got nowhere to go,” Mr Dewdney said.

“If I don’t get anywhere to live by the time of the eviction, I will be sleeping in my car.”

Man with no legs sits in wheelchair in his doorway
Paul Alfonso says he needs to live close to the local amputee clinic.(ABC Central Coast: Sophie Wainwright)

For resident Paul Alfonso, it was important for him to stay nearby his disability medical support.

“It’s a big upheaval getting up and moving somewhere else,” the 73-year-old said.

Staged development changes

The Central Coast Council said the approval of the development application (DA) included conditions for compliance with the Social Impact Assessment and Transition Management Plan.

But owners, Orr Investment Group (OIG), told residents in a letter that initial plans for the development to occur in stages would no longer happen “due to conditions in the DA and the time elapsed since our original planning and consultation.”

Letters scattered on the floor including photos of four designs of houses
Kim Berry displays documents she has collected about the redevelopment plans.(ABC Central Coast: Sophie Wainwright)

It also listed contact details for a range of other local rentals as well as social housing.

“This is a huge transition for you guys, particularly to our long-term residents,” the letter read.

“If we can be of any help with the transition, particularly in the form of rental reference or the waiver of three weeks’ notice, please don’t hesitate to contact us.”

A handwritten note on the kitchen table that says eviction, in touch with housing
Bill Dewdney makes a note about contacting social housing.(ABC Central Coast: Sophie Wainwright)

Teenage worker injured

Last Saturday, a teenager working onsite for an external contractor was taken to hospital after he was injured by a crane.

SafeWork NSW is investigating.

An OIG spokesperson said the group was “dismayed” by the workplace incident, but “pleased'” the worker had “not suffered life threatening injuries”.

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