The ‘sickening’ reality inside a notorious slum
DEALING with horrific levels of violence, rampant drug abuse, alcoholism and premature death is simply part of life for hundreds of residents trapped inside Cairns Villa and Leisure Park.
Many families desperately want to escape, but are stuck here in a heartbreaking limbo between homelessness and social housing.
Families and women's advocate Yolonde Entsch founded a Yarning Circle meeting hub based at the park and is pleading with service providers and the State Government to do more to help vulnerable residents and focus on an at-risk concentration of youth exposed to daily criminal activity at the property.
Ghana Nielsen and her partner share a small single-room unit with five children aged between one and 10 and is concerned about the impact of drug use and violence on her young kids.
"It's sickening, it's just sad. I can't even let my kids play because one of my boys has bad eczema, and we clean up 24/7 along this street," she said.
"There is heaps of people making noise but we can't say anything."
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Park owner Tony Breuer said it was a challenge to get consistent service delivery to the park's 200 residents.
"What's required is outreach for these people, whether they live on a block of flats on Murray Street or in the park, there's just not enough services," he said.
"The only two organisations that have consistently provided social services is Wheel of Wellness and the Yarning Circle."
The Sydney-based lawyer was open about a long-term vision to develop the prime Manoora 4ha site but plans for units had hit a snag with Cairns Regional Council.
"There is no question that this site should be medium (density) residential and that will happen eventually," he said.
Founder of outreach service at the park Yolonde Entsch understood problems were not unique but she has been frustrated by a stonewalling of pleas for state government help.
"We have homeless and people at risk all over the country. Federally (and at a) state level a lot of money has been poured into people who are vulnerable and at risk," she said.
"What I am asking for (from) the state government and Anglicare is for one person to be based in the park to service all of the residents who are living here.
"To be an advocate for the people here that don't have that confidence, who don't have that voice."
Ms Entsch has spent hundreds of hours working with families at the park and organisations such as Mission Australia and Anglicare offered little real support.
"The people in this park are abandoned by those national services and those state government agencies as well," she said.
"Counsellors, social workers, case managers, where are those people?"
A spokeswoman of Mission Australia said the organisation had been involved with support of park residents however the provider didn't respond to an invitation from Ms Entsch to place an worker onsite.
"Mission Australia has been, and will continue to provide support to many families and individuals while at Cairns Villa and Leisure Park to assist them to find safe, secure long-term housing," she said.
Ms Entsch has two onsite offices that she has offered to social workers prepared to help improve the situation of park residents.
"We have here in the park a collection of issues, we are talking about serious mental health, we are talking about acute and chronic disease, intergenerational domestic and family violence and drugs.
"That's the reality of this environment."
Originally published as Our 'sickening' reality inside Cairns' most notorious slum