Byron Bay's Norma is alive but struggling in health

MEAN STREETS: Norma, who lives her life on the streets of Byron Bay.Photo Christian Morrow / Byron Shire News
MEAN STREETS: Norma, who lives her life on the streets of Byron Bay.Photo Christian Morrow / Byron Shire News Christian Morrow

NORMA is alive, and though still not well, she is back on the streets of Byron Bay that are her home.

After concerns were raised for her safety, the well-known rough sleeper is back after being in Byron Hospital since last Friday.

Contrary to stories circulated elsewhere, Norma was not hospitalised due to a petrol bomb attack, she was taken to hospital by ambulance when her already poor health deteriorated even further.

In mid-February one of Norma's sleeping places, on the small porch at the back of the Telstra depot in Fletcher St, was fire bombed.

No-one was sleeping there at the time but bedding material and some of Norma and her friend's meagre possessions, including her walking frame, were destroyed.

When the Byron Shire News caught up with Norma outside Liberation Larder today she still looked very frail and her companion 'Nathan' said she should still be in hospital, but Norma was having none of it.

"I don't like to be hemmed in," she said.

Norma said on the night prior to the arson attack, someone hit her in the head with her walking frame as she slept, and shouted, "get a job."

"The second day we were there, that afternoon we were doing some art therapy and some street theatre, but I got this funny feeling that night I had to get out of there," she said.

"I came back for breakfast next morning and saw that someone had thrown a petrol bomb on it."

"It was a vicious attack and very scary. We have got nowhere to create and we are all trying, and I know Byron wants to get rid of us and think we are all little 'alcos' who sit around but we actually want to do something. We need some safe houses so that we can do it."

Manager of the Byron Community Centre Paul Spooner since the closure of the Fletcher Street cottage in March last year, the homeless of Byron had become more visible. He estimated the number of homeless to be between 150-200.

"The homeless used to have a place in Fletcher St, where they could go to during the day, they no longer have a place where they can hang out," he said.

"There was storage there, showers and a place to get a cup of tea, now that's gone and they are much more visible on the streets.

"Put that together with other cutbacks for homelessness services...the impact on these people and the town is even greater.

"It's something that we as a community are going to have to address."

Another of Norma's friends 'Castaway' has offered to pay for a night's accommodation at a local caravan park so she can get a break from the street and recover.

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