Gympie's homeless finding solace at Six Mile
LIFE as Gale Morgan knew and loved it changed forever when she lost her long-time partner four years ago.
Grieving and at a loss after subsequent family issues, Ms Morgan packed up her belongings and drove her ute north to Gympie, first arriving last December.
She first sought to camp at the Puma service station in Kybong, then Chatsworth when she was told to move on.
Describing herself as "between 60 and 70", Ms Morgan eventually settled and found much-needed solace alongside the community at the Six Mile campgrounds.
"I was getting sick and tired of going from place to place," she said.
"I love it here, I haven't been happier.
"Some people have asked why I don't rent out a unit, but I'm happy doing what I'm doing.
"I don't mind talking to people, but I don't tell them too much. I'm very private but I do muck around with them and have a joke, it helps me get out of myself a little bit."
"I've got a pension, but between food, petrol and car maintenance it all adds up.
"I don't want to be locked into committing to a unit, either."
Dan Seymour, a relative newcomer at Six Mile, said life among kind souls had been "fun" so far.
"I've really enjoyed being here, the people here have been very helpful," he said.
The winter season, which has broken decade-long local records, has been rough for Gympie's homeless community - but Ms Morgan said she hadn't let cold nights at Six Mile get her down.
She admitted the lifestyle, while enjoyable, did not come without its challenges.
"I've got a golf club and a hammer in my car," she said with a laugh.
"I've got to park near someone I know so I feel safe at night.
"I do feel sorry for a lot of people around here who just have tents.
"I gave a guy a blanket because he didn't have any, but I'm warm.
"I struggle, but I get there and I don't complain."
Ms Morgan said another point of distress had been the regular appearances of Transport and Main Roads officers, who patrol the campgrounds and advise people to "move on".
A sign at Six Mile advises a "maximum 20 hour stay" for the "travelling public".
Local volunteer Jada Burns, who takes hot meals to the campgrounds every week with husband Lindsey, questioned TMR's position.
"These people need somewhere safe to be," Mrs Burns said.
A TMR spokeswoman previously told The Gympie Times "rest areas are not long-term camping sites".
"Motorists are permitted to stay for a maximum of 20 hours, including overnight," the spokeswoman said.
TMR encouraged those without a permanent residence to call the Homeless Hotline on 1800 474 753.