(SUNDAY MAIL - QUEENSLAND) Loners found living in caves

Submitted by Editor on Fri, 16/07/2004 - 16:00

Quote: IT HAS all the makings of an X-Files episode. A hidden underclass of cave-dwellers, who have shunned society for a life in the wilderness, lives in bushland that surrounds the quiet suburbs of the NSW Central Coast.

To all who receive this, I SIMPLY ASK WHY, Fred Morris
Tenant Support Network

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, July 16, 2004 8:28 AM


IT HAS all the makings of an X-Files episode. A hidden underclass of cave-dwellers, who have shunned society for a life in the wilderness, lives in bushland that surrounds the quiet suburbs of the NSW Central Coast.

But these people are not a lost tribe of savages or even romantics who wish to live off the land. Sadly, these are the region's homeless and mentally ill who have fallen through the welfare cracks.

Baptist Community Service co-ordinator Maureen Soper has spent the past 10 years helping the region's homeless aged and frail find accommodation.

Ms Soper said some homeless people were now taking refuge in caves after being unable to fit in to modern society.

"I would not like to put a number on how many people there are living in caves on the Central Coast, but it would be at least 10," she said.

"There is nothing romantic about it. They are not people who live off the land or anything. These are people who don't really fit into one of your typical welfare groups and no one knows what to do with them.

"But there are a lot of hard workers on the Central Coast who are doing their best to give them the help they need."

Ms Soper said for the past three weeks she had been visiting one man, who she will only refer to as Pete, who has taken up residence in an isolated Central Coast cave.

The community worker is reluctant to reveal the exact whereabouts of Pete, believed to be aged in his 30s or 40s, for fear he may be targeted by thugs.

"Homeless people not only have to contend with all the health issues that come from living on the streets - or in this case a cave - they also have to contend with people who want to beat them up or steal from them," she said.

"Pete has told me that he is a cancer sufferer and is reluctant to have a fixed address because he has been involved with some people in the past who might wish to do him harm.

"Seeing a man like Pete would be a real eye-opener for a lot of people.

"He lives in a cave at the top of a hill and exists on whatever food he can scrounge and from the small amount of money he gets from doing odd jobs.

"Aside from food, the thing he needs most is kerosene because the light from the lamp he uses scares the rats away at night."

Ms Soper, who drops food off for Pete at a shop near his cave where he can collect it, said hermits like Pete were hard to help because they did not fit in to the normal categories that organisations such as the Department of Community Services or the Department of Housing were used to assisting.

"A person like Pete is hard to help because he does not want to go into the public system for fear of ending up in a hospital for the mentally ill," she said.

"That's his choice and I have to respect it, so I take food to a shop that he goes to and he just picks it up," she said.

A spokeswoman for the National Parks and Wildlife Service said there was a $3300 fine for anyone found living permanently in a national park or reserve but officers used discretion in deciding who to fine.

"If a homeless person was found living in these areas, NPWS officers would work with local authorities and welfare services to find them more suitable accommodation. We wouldn't issue a fine."



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