Homeless man Dwayne takes his mattress back under the carpark after police left the scene yesterday. Dwayne has been camping out in the carpark for the past few days on his way to Cairns.
Homeless man Dwayne takes his mattress back under the carpark after police left the scene yesterday. Dwayne has been camping out in the carpark for the past few days on his way to Cairns. Craig Warhurst

Homeless Dwayne finds help

SOCIAL worker Alan Fitzgerald had just one month to convince Dwayne to take advantage of federal and state funding that provides automatic emergency accommodation for young people under 25.

Dwayne turns 26 next month and could end up lost in a system where there is a wait of up to several months for housing.

By then a person like Dwayne would have moved on to the next town because of a lack of understanding, Mr Fitzgerald said.

He had just begun to take the young homeless man under his wing and begin the process of referring Dwayne to the right services when police turned up yesterday.

“I was made aware of someone sleeping it rough in the car park so I made a coffee for him and woke him up,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

“I explained that I was a social worker and asked him to come and see me.

"I told him I would be able to find him immediate shelter in some form – normally I would take someone in his situation straight to Centrelink and then to Vinnies or the youth service.”

Mr Fitzgerald is the tenancy support worker for Cooloola Housing Association under the newly formed Community Action Inc.

It’s his job to try to gain an understanding of Dwayne’s needs and turn his situation into one where he’s a valued and contributing member of the community.

Cooloola Housing manager Michelle Hein said all Mr Fitzgerald could do was offer Dwayne the services available to him.

“It’s his choice if he wants to take up that offer or not,” she said.

“Often people in this situation have complex needs.”

Gympie Police Sergeant Brad Hargraves said the station had received a number of complaints from residents about Dwayne’s behaviour and the rubbish in the car park.

He said when police spoke to Dwayne earlier this week, he told officers he was on his way to Cairns, but action was taken yesterday and a move-on direction given.

“We received numerous complaints about a suspect person hanging around, following business people when they’ve been knocking off work in the afternoons and asking for money,” Sgt Hargraves said.

“I contacted council to dispose of all the rubbish...they went there and he refused to let them throw the old mattress and blankets out.

"Officers arranged for him to be looked after by Community Housing.”

Sgt Hargraves said Dwayne was known to police and was of no fixed address.

When The Gympie Times asked Dwayne where he had come from before stopping in Gympie, the answer was “everywhere”.

He politely refused to say how he came to be homeless.

Mr Fitzgerald said a warm bed, food and a bath had been organised for Dwayne last night.

“I expect Cooloola Youth Service will place him in one of their serviced units.

"He’s very excited – I hope everything comes together for him.”

Gympie Times


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