Sleeping bus will be a haven for Sunshine Coast homeless in housing crisis

Queensland’s first sleeper bus has arrived to provide emergency beds to the homeless on the Sunshine Coast as support agencies struggle to help an avalanche of people trapped in the housing crisis.

The $ 100,000 bus has been funded from community donations through a campaign that began when homeless David Collin was killed in his sleeping bag in Maroochydore in 2019.

Mark Ellis, community development coordinator at the Maroochy Neighborhood Center, felt compelled to provide safe beds in an area that does not have homeless shelters for men.

He said that even if the bus was not a long or even medium term housing solution, it would provide a respite for people in crisis.

“Because they are so, so lack of sleep, you know, a few nights of good sleep in a bed, their mental health will improve, which will improve their physical health,” Mr Ellis said.

‘I’m not a pimple’

Peter McNeill hopes to be one of the first to sleep on the bus when it opens on January 21st.

Man in cap and wearing backpack
Peter McNeill, who is homeless, says he can not wait to get on the bus to get a safe night’s sleep.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Jacqui Street)

McNeill said he had been homeless for nearly five years after quitting his Bunnings job due to ill health.

He said Ross River fever from a mosquito bite developed into chronic fatigue, making him unable to work for more than an hour or two without having to lie down.

“There are some people out there who think, ‘Oh, you’re just a pimple, but I’m not a pimple. You know, I’m not … a good person, “he said.

McNeill was on the waiting list for public housing and had been offered rental assistance, but he was unable to find an affordable rental in the current market.

He described the bus as “absolutely brilliant” and “a blessing from God”.

How it works

The Maroochydore bus has eight double pods that can sleep eight individuals or more if there are couples or relatives.

Two pods inside the sleeper bus, the end of bunk beds visible and camp toilets downstairs
Sleep pods come with ipads and walkie talkies so guests can communicate with the caretaker on board.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Jacqui Street)

It will be parked in Maroochydore at a municipally approved location and the doors will open between 8.30pm and 10.30pm for “onboarding”, with vigil from 7pm.

Sleep buses usually fill their seats on a first-come, first-served basis.

Melbourne founder and CEO of Sleepbus, Simon Rowe, said dogs would also be allowed.

“We have one rule, which is the rule of quiet enjoyment.

Sir. Rowe even converted the bus after it was donated by the transport company CDC.

Sleep pods have air conditioning, reading lamps, USB charging points, a small toilet and even an iPad that sleepers can follow in TV shows.

Man in black shirt, standing in front of sleeping bag
Simon Rowe provided the bus with pods and drove it from Melbourne to Maroochydore.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Jacqui Street)

Volunteers will be required to clean the bedding, but Mr Rowe said he had had 50 people who had signed up to help.

The bus will also have a volunteer caretaker who will sleep aboard another pod.

“So they’re staying at the front of the bus in their own cabin, it’s a pretty big cabin, they have security cameras so they can see what’s going on,” Mr Rowe said.

He said all guests wanted a little walkie talkie too.

“So if they want to communicate, they can do it.”

Huge need

The blue bus will be open to anyone who needs a bed, but a pink bus has also been ordered for women who arrive in the middle of the year.

Smiling man sitting inside the door of the bus
Mark Ellis says he is proud of the sleep bus, but he wants governments to do more for the homeless.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Jacqui Street)

Ellis said the need for emergency housing continued to grow in the region, where many could not afford rent increases.

“In honor of the ward, she was actually accommodated the next day because a 73-year-old woman who sleeps poorly on the street is not on.”

Ellis said government investment in housing was necessary.

“I think the federal government should actually start looking at it seriously and pumping some serious money into it, otherwise we have a serious problem as it is, but it will get even worse.”

Sleep buses are gaining momentum

The Queensland bus follows others in Melbourne, Canberra and neighboring Queanbeyan in New South Wales.

Ellis said the Maroochydore collection had inspired other communities and that sleeping buses had been ordered for Hervey Bay, Byron Bay and Taree.

“I really feel like a proud father. It’s a great thing to see the bus here, and that some of the people who have experienced homelessness come and look at the bus.”

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