Retired Northern Beaches police officer and Deputy Mayor David Walton said residents had raised concerns about the campground for about three years, but the situation had recently escalated.
“There have been anecdotal and formal reports of abusive language and threats, such as throwing rocks at people walking by in the sand and scrubland, as well as verbal threats,” he said.
Walton said local council staff were concerned about the consequences of campground residents cutting down trees, which could destabilize the dunes.
“There are also indications that construction of other campsites is starting. So if we don’t regulate this properly, there could be an increase,” he warned.
Kevin Kingsbeer, program manager for Mission Australia’s Lower North Shore and Northern Beaches Homelessness Support Service, said his organization advocates a housing-first approach to tackling homelessness and provides troubled sleepers with support to deal with chronic and complex issues from the stable base of a home.
“Historically there have been many different hotspots on the northern beaches for people sleeping on the street, which Mission Australia has responded to,” he said, confirming they had visited those locations and offered options for support.
Nationally, Mission Australia has seen a 26 per cent increase in demand for its services and a 50 per cent increase in the number of people seeking help after being made homeless in the last three years.
Kingsbeer said the area needs more investment in social and affordable housing. According to Domain, which is partially owned by Nine (the owner of this imprint), the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Dee Why is $500 per week.
Local affordable housing service Bridge Housing, in its annual Northern Beaches Homeless Street Sleeping Count, found that 45 people in the community were sleeping outside or in cars outside earlier in the year, up from 30 in 2022, although it’s a decrease a third acted on the figures for 2020.
“Bridge Housing is working closely with Northern Beaches Council and local services to respond to homelessness in the Northern Beaches,” said Rebecca Pinkstone, the organization’s CEO.
“We have helped a number of people move off the streets into permanent housing and we will continue to offer assistance to the people of Dee Why Beach.”
Walton said the council was “very aware” of the possibility of mental health issues among campground residents and that sleepers could not be forced to accept the offer of temporary accommodation.
“While you have rights, you also have responsibilities and at the moment we have concerns,” he said.
The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Login here.