When Lauren Koplin requested repairs to her rental property in Adelaide, she says she and her son with special needs received notice to vacate.

She had requested work to fix the mold in her kitchen, which had already been damaged by water.

“That would have meant giving us a temporary kitchen while they did the work, but instead we had four weeks to pack up our lives,” she told Conversation Hour.

After initially staying with friends and sleeping on their floors, Ms Koplin wanted a more stable environment for her son, Noah, so she opted to stay at a trailer park.

“We took our bedding with us so it was more comfortable and like home and we only had our suitcases.

“There was no other option and nowhere to go, so I was paying $800 a week to put a roof over our heads.

“I never thought I would be in this position.”

Lauren Koplin said she moved in with her sister while she secured accommodation.(Provided: Lauren Koplin)

Ms Koplin said she attended property inspections almost daily, but her options were limited.

“I went for an inspection last weekend; it was a three bedroom house for $450 a week and the mold smell was terrible.”

“We can’t help them”

Debbie McKenzie, who has run a caravan park in Shepparton in northeast Victoria for around 40 years, said she has noticed an increase in people turning to caravan parks for long-term accommodation.

“We get three or four calls a day,” Ms. McKenzie said.

“Young families, some women with four or five kids, they tell me they’ve even been in the car.

“The saddest thing is you don’t know who to send them to and where to move them because you just can’t help them.”

A row of empty caravans with annexes in a caravan park.
Lauren Koplin said there was a six-week wait for an appointment with Housing Services.(ABC News: Steven Schubert)

Ms McKenzie said she has also received requests for long-term campsite rentals at $150 a week.

“They can set up a tent…rather than continuing to live in their car.”

The tenants have moved

Tenants Victoria chief executive Jennifer Beveridge said despite some creative solutions, not enough was being done to address the housing crisis.

She added that people moving into caravan parks are often unaware of their rights – those who reside in a park for more than 60 days are subject to the Residential Tenancies Act.

“It offers a lot more protection to people than to those on the move,” she said.

But Ms Beveridge said people were often told to continue as they approached the 60-day mark.

“There are always people who will take advantage of the dire situation of others, either by finding ways to escape the laws and profiting.

“Our perspective is that housing is a human right. It’s an essential service, but we actually need better conversations and better outcomes across the housing market.”

Jennifer Beveridge is the CEO of Eating Disorders Victoria.
Jennifer Beveridge says rental laws may apply to people staying in trailer parks.(ABC News: Stephanie Anderson)

too scared to speak

While some people often knew their rights, Ms Beveridge said there was a reluctance to speak out.

“We hear people say all the time that they will choose to accept substandard housing.

“People will choose to shut up and live with mold because it’s too hard or they’ll continue to be ignored.

“That’s not good enough.”

Struggling with rent, Ms Koplin has now moved to live with her sister in the Northern Territory while she searches for more affordable accommodation.

Ms Koplin, who receives a carer’s pension due to her son’s needs, said most of her income was spent on accommodation and storage costs.

“Our life is in storage, and then everyone else is getting in here and there trying to help us – it’s just not a life.”