Stand-off leaves elderly in limbo

Wendy Kay, who is staging a live-in at Nimbins Mulgum House after being refused accommodation at the facility, with her friend Letitia Lee. Mulgum House has room for 10 residents but currently only has three official occupants.

A Nimbin pensioner desperate for somewhere to live is staging a live-in at Mulgum House the towns only aged care hostel which has seven empty rooms and three residents, who fear the managers are waiting for them to die so they can close the facility.

Anglicare North Coast, which manages Mulgum House, issued eviction notices to all residents in August 2004, saying the facility was losing too much money and was no longer sustainable. However, a Mulgum House resident took the matter to the Consumer, Trading and Tenancy Tribunal and it was ruled that the facility was effectively a retirement village and as a result residents could not be evicted.

Since then, Anglicare North Coast has turned away elderly people seeking residency, including Wendy Kay, 73, who decided it was time to take matters into her own hands.

I moved my bed and a few bits of furniture in on Sunday, said Wendy, who needs a walking frame and an electric scooter to get around. Im desperate for accessible accommodation and Ive lived at Mulgum House before. I have been in Nimbin since 1988 and I have a daughter here, but I cant stay with her because I cant get up the steps at her house. I did live at Nimbin Hospitals multipurpose unit for a while and its a very good facility, but I dont need to be in a nursing home. All I need is somewhere accessible for my scooter so I can be independent and in Nimbin, Mulgum House is the only place I can find.

On Monday Wendy phoned Anglicare North Coasts Maclean office and told them she was living in one of the facilitys empty rooms and was ready to pay rent, which prompted a hostile response.

They threatened to send the police to evict me, said Wendy. As yet no action has been taken.

One of the three official Mulgum House residents, Margaret Falkenbach, who has lived in the hostel for nearly two years, believes Anglicare North Coast is simply waiting for Mulgum House to become vacant so they can shut the facility for good.

I find the whole situation bizarre and disgusting, Ms Falkenbach said. This lovely house was built with taxpayers money for the community, and its sitting here almost empty while people need a place to live. I think they are just waiting for us to die so they can sell it off.

Len Martin from the Nimbin Mulgum House Action Group said members were aware the facility was no longer financially viable, and was believed to be making a loss of around $40,000 each year. As a result, the group made submissions more than 18 months ago to the state government, which owns the property, asking for the management of Mulgum House to be taken over by the NSW Department of Health. They have not yet received a response.

Subsequently, attempts by local aged care workers to have needy elderly people housed in Mulgum House have been refused, even when it has been proposed they go in on fixed short-term leases, Mr Martin said. The failure to allow the maximum utilisation of this essential resource is a disgrace. The Nimbin community is concerned that current policy is a ploy to run down and sell off a facility increasingly needed by a growing aged population.

Mr Martin said the situation desperately needs to be resolved, and there is now talk of the community banding together to buy the hostel.

I dont know where we go from here because weve had no support or feedback from the politicians, he said. Maybe Wendys move will prompt some action.

Anglicare North Coast did not respond to The Echos requests for comment.

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