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Shorrelle Watkins and Mark Kelly are doing what they can to help people in need.

Mundaring couple offer refuge

By Rebecca Peppiatt

A Mundaring caravan park has become a beacon of hope for those struggling with the housing crisis after offering their sites to those that have nowhere else to turn.

Shorrelle Watkins and her partner Mark Kelly from Perth Hills Caravan Park have decided to turn away travellers wanting a space to holiday in favour of making room for people that are in desperate need of a place to live.

The move has highlighted the extent of the current housing situation locally, which is seeing a staggering number of people being evicted from rentals as homeowners decide to sell and cash in on high property prices.

Others are being forced out as rents reach record highs, forcing them to sleep in cars or reach out to homeless shelters.

“I’ve got a lady and two sons here, their rental went on the market so they were told to get out and they can’t get another one so they’re here, sleeping in a tent,” Ms Watkins said.

“They came five weeks ago and I’ve got another couple with five kids staying in two of our on-site caravans.

“The same thing happened to them.”

Ms Watkins said she gets multiple enquiries a day from people asking if they can stay long term, and if she has a spot free, she always obliges.

It’s an unusual move, however, for a van park that can make more money from travellers passing through.

Ms Watkins, a mum to three little girls, bought the business a year and a half ago on her own as an investment for her children’s futures.

A former counsellor and volunteer crisis care helpline worker, she always had a vision to create a community where she could help others.

“I suppose I always had, even when I was little, this community dream of helping people and having a little community where people can help each other out and less fortunate people as well,” she said.

“So that always played on my mind and I feel more comfortable with that than the tourists.

“I just find it’s nicer – a lot of the people that come through, they’ve all got a story and they want somewhere to call home.”

Now the couple are forging ahead with plans to build ‘tiny homes’ in a bid to offer more people a place to stay.

“I get six, seven or more calls a week from people wanting on-site vans,” Ms Watkins said.

“We have four or five here but they’re already booked out and people are desperate.

“I’m saying no but we can take a tent, you can come in a tent if you want, if that’s all you’ve got, so we thought about building a row of tiny houses and they would go straight away.”

The park charges $210 a week per couple for two people, plus power.

This is cheaper than the average rental for the area and allegedly cheaper than some of the Perth homeless shelters and backpackers hostels.

“Even a backpackers is $30 to $40 a night per person and you’re in a shared dormitory,” Ms Watkins said.

“So if they can at least get themselves a tent and there’s a couple or just one person, here it’s only $30 a night.

“It works out cheaper.”

The couple said their residents are like family, even sitting by the bedside of a man who passed away in his van earlier this year as he lived there alone, not wanting to be a burden to his family.

“My need to help people is immense and if we can help them we will,” said Mr Kelly.

“But we have to turn a few away and if we could do more, we would.

“I’d love to fill the whole caravan park with people who need help that are in that situation but we’re doing it off our own backs.”

The couple are welcoming donations to get their tiny homes plan off the ground.

Anyone with cheap building materials or an old caravan they are willing to donate is asked to contact Mark and Shorrelle at Perth Hills Caravan Park and Market Village on Great Eastern Highway.

About The Editorial Team

Echo News gives readers an alternative to other media outlets in WA and enjoys a very high rate of readership in its distribution area. Our Echo News team are a small group of devoted individuals who work hard to give the local community an easy to read, yet intelligent mix of local community stories.

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