91 and left to sleep in a shed

• Bill, 91, from Northern Ireland, wants to keep living independently. Photo by David Bell.

A 91-YEAR-OLD man has been forced to sleep in a shed after residents of a run-down hostel in Murray Street were evicted to make way for a 35-storey hotel redevelopment.

The lodgers and the keeper of Hostel Milligan, some who’ve been there for more than 30 years, were told to leave the ageing property by September 30.

But some, like 91-year-old Bill, have found even “affordable housing” is out of their reach, with newer hostels charging more than twice as much for a private room.

Evictee Tom says it’s been hard knowing the redevelopment was looming. He says he’s felt “numb”.

“I don’t know what to do,” Tom told the Voice.

He’s looking at going interstate for cheaper accommodation.

“I might have found a place in Dubbo,” he says – if he can get there.

Shelter

Later that night he carried his belongings off to look for a youth hostel nearby, but says he can’t afford their rates for long.

Another resident who’s lived on and off at Milligans for nearly 30 years said he’d applied at a shelter and was hoping to hear back by next Thursday. It’s south of the river as he’s previously used up his quota of accommodation at local shelters.

He doesn’t know what to do in the meantime.

Hostel keeper Tony Ransom has been running the place for 30 years. Both a caretaker of the premises and residents, he’s worried about the fate of the last few.

“From the time [developer] Fragrance first bought the property I stopped advertising for new guests. I even removed the vintage sign from above the front door. This was to ensure I did not have to inconvenience so many residents to relocate,” Mr Ransom said.

He’s helped some find a new spot, and he’s let those in desperate straits skip rent since the August 20 notice to vacate in the hope they could save up money for a bond or moving costs.

Bush

Bill can’t remember how long he’s lived at Milligans, but he came from Northern Ireland some misty years ago and “worked all over the bush”.

“I’ve had a lot of addresses,” Bill said.

His memory’s going but he’s still physically fit — he carried his own luggage down the stairs himself on the last day – and doesn’t want to give up his independence and go into an old age home.

“Bill’s been here since 1988,” Mr Ransom says.

“I keep him mentally active,” taking him out to exercise on park equipment, and for a visit to the zoo on the day before the eviction.

With the locks changed on October 1, Mr Ransom drove Bill out to Midland where they both stayed the night in a shed.

“It’s a friend’s shed, where the chaps lived picking grapes off vines since the year dot,” Mr Ransom says.

“We’re safe,” he says, though Bill kept wanting to return to the hostel. “It’s not all bright and shiny, there’s nothing to it, but there’s lots of new little things to distract him from the circumstances.”

by DAVID BELL

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