Wild weather exposes 'real problem' struggling Aussies living in tents face

Wild weather lashed parts of the country this week, but insufficient shelter left many completely exposed.

Heartbreaking footage has captured the bleak reality facing homeless people living rough in Australian parks as the country's rental and cost-of-living crisis continues to force struggling Aussies into tents.

As brutal storms swept across the eastern states on Monday destroying power lines and bringing down trees, those living rough in a Brisbane park were without sufficient shelter and completely exposed to the wild weather.

Paul Slater, who runs the Northwest Community Group said he arrived at Musgrave Park in Brisbane's south on Monday afternoon, a makeshift community he visits most days and provides food and clothing to those in need. But on arrival, it started raining "really heavily, a lot heavier than normal".

People living in tents in Musgrave Park, Brisbane during heavy rain.
People living in tents in Musgrave Park, Brisbane were washed out due to wild weather in Queensland due to homelessness. Source: Supplied/Paul Slater

The rain "definitely damaged people's stuff inside their tents" Slater told Yahoo News Australia. "One person there said they felt like they were on a waterbed because the water was flowing underneath their tent, pushing it up."

Heavy rain and storms pose risk to homeless people

A video shared with Yahoo shows much of the parklands flooded, with numerous tents surrounded by murky puddles of rainwater.

"The real problem is that everything they own is in those tents and they can't just go and do a quick load of washing," he said. "They've got nothing to wear if they do that and then they've got the risk of mould too".

Slater said the country is in "a housing emergency" adding that "these people aren't here by choice". Extortionate rental prices and a lack of suitable housing have been blamed for Australia's rise in homelessness — but the wild weather poses several safety concerns too, Slater said.

"When it rains like this, [they] need to get out of [their] tents and walk across the road and get undercover because [they're] in danger with the trees over the top," he explained.

"Because there's a lot of large trees in Musgrave Park, I've seen huge branches fall just centimetres from tents. And so if a branch was to come off during one of these storms and land on them, it could cause some serious damage to them, if not death."

Tents in Musgrave Park, Brisbane due to homelessness.
Musgrave Park was at its peak two weeks ago with 35 tents. Source: Supplied/ Paul Slater

Alarming rise in tent cities across Australia

Slater, who started his charity about six months ago, said the growing number of people living rough is a serious problem. "They're often praying for anything to help them get out of the situation that they're in," he said.

Another challenge rough sleepers face is rampant drug use throughout the camps. "Not necessarily the people that live there but people coming in at nighttime to party," he said. "They also get stuff stolen, their tents get damaged and they can't sleep because of the noise."

Tent cities are popping up rapidly across the state as the country's crippling housing crisis continues. Norm McGillivray, Founder of Beddown, previously told Yahoo it's "growing to disastrous levels". In Musgrove Park, Slater said it was "at its peak" with about 35 tents two weeks ago, but at the moment there are about 20 or 25.

Earlier this month a cyclist filmed at least 20 tents lining a river in the city’s West End. Meanwhile, a teenage boy described his struggle with finding a rental with his dad, resorting to rough living in another Brisbane park.

"Every week I'm meeting new people that are moving into the area because they have exhausted all their other options," Slater said.

Paul Slater from Northwest Community Group standing in Musgrave Park in Brisbane with tents.
Paul Slater founded Northwest Community Group which helps people experiencing homelessness across Brisbane. Source: Supplied/ Paul Slater

There are an estimated 122,000 people across the country experiencing homelessness, according to the 2021 Census. Earlier this year, a report by Queensland Council of Social Services (QCOSS) and The Town of Nowhere campaign revealed the number of homeless people in Queensland has jumped 22 per cent in the past five years — almost triple the national increase.

Slater is hoping to raise money that could help go towards purchasing essential items for Australia's rising homeless population. You can donate here and can check out the work he does on Facebook.

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube.