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Planning for Society’s Most Vulnerable


With the mark of World Homelessness Day, it seems like no better time to look into our very own backyard and open our eyes to the ever-changing face of homelessness in Brisbane.

It’s no secret that homelessness is a complex, multifaceted issue that holds a heavy stigma in our society, but who exactly is our homeless population?

Homelessness has many forms from overcrowded housing to sleeping rough on the streets. In Brisbane, the National Homelessness Monitor estimates the number of homeless people has increased 32% since 2011, with 5,813 homeless people recorded in Brisbane in 2016 Census data; And as much as 42% of our homeless population is under 25 years old.

Recent studies suggest that in pockets around the city, the rate of homelessness is increasing faster than population growth. We are also seeing an increase in older women and young people experiencing homelessness, which has been linked to housing affordability and lack of employment opportunities.

Currently, there is a severe shortage of social housing and the private rental market is becoming virtually inaccessible to people on low incomes or income support. Ultimately, our homeless population are strongly a result of the lack of safe and secure affordable housing.

In the face of housing affordability challenges and a shortage of community housing, initiatives like Beddown seek to provide a temporary solution allowing pop-up style support accommodation for our homeless population.

Beddown's philosophy is simple - 'everyone deserves access to a safe, secure and comfortable environment as well as social inclusion and betterment.' The not-for-profit, charitable organization known as Beddown looks to tackle some of Australia’s homelessness issues through an innovative and collaborative initiative activating under-utilised carparking spaces and repurposing them into pop-up overnight accommodation.  

Australia’s largest car park operator, Secure Parking, were first to be involved with the pilot project with their facilities providing shelter, security and great ‘end-of-trip’ amenities. The pop-up accommodation is quickly erected and dismantled ensuring maximum use of the space with minimal disruption to the building’s commercial activities.

Homelessness is the issue directly related to every player and influencer in our industry, that’s why Wolter Consulting Group chose Beddown as their Charity of Choice, in line with their core value of Citizenship.  We are pleased that we were able to help Beddown from the town planning perspective, navigating the planning approval process to get the project off the ground.  We are also happy to see our Director, Natalie Rayment, being appointed Deputy Chair on Beddown board. With Natalie’s passion for creating cities and regions that deliver quality of life for our communities, we have no doubt she will be a natural at this new role.

We are also very excited that our team members could be a part of the Beddown’s trial run over the past two weeks and and assist in providing support for our City’s most vulnerable.

Beddown had its opening night on 29 September 2019 with many volunteers and organisations coming together to assist some of Brisbane’s homeless people in an amazingly collaborative effort.

“The community atmosphere that manifested as supporting services, like Rosies and Grill’d, provided meals and coffee was incredible, and I was fortunate enough to hear some amazing stories,” says Gabrielle, one of our Planners and WCG volunteers during the Beddown trial nights.

“My second night involved checking in the guests and showing them to the safe ‘lock-up’ place where they could keep their belongings. Being on ‘check-in’, I was able to get to meet them on a more personal level… I don’t think I’ll ever forget the change in confidence in the guests or the beaming on their faces that such simple services like a shower, meal and bed was able to give, thanks to Beddown.”

“The concept of Beddown is so simple and innovative, it makes you wonder why it hasn’t been implemented sooner,” says Iva Botic from WCG landscape team who also helped during Beddown trial nights.

“We are certainly in no short supply of unused secure spaces that could be easily transformed to provide much needed safe sleeping areas for those in need.”

“Witnessing the generosity of the volunteers and service providers as well as getting to know Beddown guests, was a truly humbling and rewarding experience. I am proud to be involved with this movement and am excited to see it grow on a broader, national level.”

Despite the great success that Beddown is achieving at such early stages of its life, there remains a number of challenges that the model will need to overcome. The number of people in need far exceeds the number that Beddown can currently cater for. As such, Beddown aims to be able to:  

  • Provide further accommodation
  • Provide for Women’s only accommodation
  • Provide accommodation for children – currently taking anyone under the age of 18 years adds another significant level of complexities
  • Provide accommodation that allows and caters for pets, as a number of homeless people have companion pets and animal welfare issues come into play.

Having been heavily involved in ensuring Beddown could operate legally under current planning provisions, we are very much aware of the complex, multifaceted issues that these types of services are subject to and as such, fundamentally believe actions should be taken at a Strategic level to allow future Beddown services (or similar) to cater support accommodation for society’s most vulnerable.

We may have once associated homelessness with drugs, alcohol and other mental illness related problems of which professions like ours could somewhat pass off as ‘not our issue’. In the face of challenges surrounding housing affordability and a severe shortage in community housing supply, however, perhaps it’s time to look at bigger picture, and cause and effect of our drastically increasing homeless populations.

We need to remember that a society is only as strong as its weakest members.

Every one of us can be a part of this important journey of making a difference. If you would like to participate in this amazing and important initiative, click on the link below.