For all that there is an air of frivolity when I write about living on the coast - houses, beaches, blah blah blah, there are of course, community issues within the Gosford City Council and Wyong Shire Council areas.
To some degree they are problems which affect the majority of regional areas in our State - the need for infrastructure, the need for medical facilities for an ageing population, the creation of jobs so that families are not disjointed by the need to commute to the Sydney CBD for work. However there are some serious issues such as high rates of youth suicide and increases in homelessness that I don't feel are being addressed.
The latest edition of our local paper ran a story about a commemorative service which was held this week as part of National Homeless Persons Week. According to the story, seven homeless people died on Central Coast streets in 2011. In my ignorance I didn't realise that this was happening so close to me, so to read that statistic came as a shock.
Before we moved to the Coast, we lived five minutes from the Sydney Harbour Bridge and our neighbours were the 10 storey housing commission tower blocks known as the Greenway Apartments. Through this I was aware of a whole range of social issues, so it's not as if I've been living in la la land.
My membership on my son's school parent body brought me into contact with the Coast Shelter based in Gosford. Last year we held a canned food drive for their soup kitchen. I've driven past Coast Shelter many times and always noticed people lined up to get a meal - but somewhere, caught up in my own personal events of 2011, I overlooked the amount of work the Shelter carries out each day.
In 2010 to 2011 Coast Shelter provided a total of 41,773 overnight beds. It accommodated 490 homeless people in various programs and provided over 53,000 free meals to homeless and needy community members. But it had to turn away 1,680, 69% of people who sought accommodation because they didn't have any vacancies. I wonder how many of those seven deceased were part of the group turned away.
In less than a month, elections will be held in all NSW council areas and while I've been trying to work out who I should support with my vote, I haven't come across any candidate who appears interested in preventing homelessness in our region. Some have vaguely mentioned suicide rates but the majority are talking jobs. I understand that there are links between unemployment and homelessness but I certainly feel that we also need to look at how we manage drug use as well as how we fund mental health programs.
I'm not confident that my vote will elect a Council which will represent what truly needs to be addressed in our region and that's scary. Very scary.