Dee Why tent city: Homeless take over sand dunes at Sydney beach

Inside the secret ‘tent city’ in a multi-million dollar suburb where the homeless pose as tradies to steal from cars and beachgoers – and you’ll never believe what happened when Daily Mail Australia paid a visit

  • A tent city has formed on the dunes of one of Sydney’s most popular beaches
  • Several homeless people have taken up residence on headland at Dee Why 
  • There are three encampments across the community metres from the beach 
  • Locals have complained to the council about antisocial behaviour 
  • People have seen rough sleepers stealing items from beachgoers and vehicles
  • Our reporter tried to speak to those in the area but was soon pelted with rocks 

A ‘tent city’ has formed on pristine sand dunes at one of Sydney‘s most popular beaches, with locals living in fear of its homeless occupants, one of whom hurled rocks at a Daily Mail Australia reporter.  

Several rough sleepers living in the coastal scrub behind Dee Why Beach on the city’s Northern Beaches have been vandalising property, stealing from passers-by and intimidating them, locals claim. 

Vast piles of rubbish, bikes and furniture have built up on the water’s edge and locals are worried the homeless will leave Dee Why’s reputation in tatters – and damage the delicate lagoon’s ecosystem.

They also claim some of the homeless occupants are posing as tradies while trying to take items from parked cars and watching beachgoers through binoculars before stealing their belongings.

Daily Mail Australia attempted to visit ‘tent city’ but were verbally abused by one man who pelted rocks at a reporter and photographer.

‘F*** off, get out of here… get that camera out of here,’ he yelled.

A tent city has been forming on the pristine sand dunes of one of Sydney's most popular beaches - with locals concerned over the behaviour of its occupants

A tent city has been forming on the pristine sand dunes of one of Sydney’s most popular beaches – with locals concerned over the behaviour of its occupants

Pictures from the scene show rubbish strewn throughout the encampment with empty containers, baskets and miscellaneous items packed into the site

Pictures from the scene show rubbish strewn throughout the encampment with empty containers, baskets and miscellaneous items packed into the site

Some of the residents of the homeless community have been living among the native banksia trees that line the beach for more than two years.

Daily Mail Australia understands the group had been living at another location around the Dee Why Lagoon, but moved closer to the beach after a fire.

They have occupied different spots around the water, before settling in the current dune area – sandwiched between a sandy coastal track and the beach – with swimmers and surfers just metres away. 

Photos taken by the Manly Observer show the area strewn with chairs, tents and waste. 

Ewan Lund, a barista at a beachfront café, said he was aware of rough sleepers but said they mostly keep to themselves.

‘We know they’re there, but you can’t see them or the tents from the pathway,’ he said.

A mismatch of chairs, tables, eskies and crates make up the furniture throughout the rough sleeper's community nestled on Dee Why's sand dunes

A mismatch of chairs, tables, eskies and crates make up the furniture throughout the rough sleeper’s community nestled on Dee Why’s sand dunes

‘One time we had a guy come in and ask for money, but otherwise you never see them.’

A concerned local, who didn’t want to be named, said the homeless community had even targeted a pair of women who clean the beach each morning. 

‘Almost no one knows that they’re there unless they’ve had issues with them. There has been council and police going there but they can’t do anything and I think they prefer to have them contained there so they’re not causing issues anywhere else,’ the resident told the Manly Observer.

‘Two ladies you see before sunrise rain or shine walk up and down Dee Why Beach collect every piece of rubbish. They do it out of love for the area. 

‘Apparently they came out of the camp and threatened the two ladies to go away for getting too close.’

Aerial pictures show several campsites scattered throughout the brushland between Dee Why's beach and lagoon

Aerial pictures show several campsites scattered throughout the brushland between Dee Why’s beach and lagoon

There are several bikes and scooters littered around the communities - with locals claiming they have been stolen

There are several bikes and scooters littered around the communities – with locals claiming they have been stolen

It’s believed the setup has been growing through the pandemic, with three settlements now established on the headland. 

Images from the scene show a mismatch of chairs, tables, eskies and crates being used as furniture in common areas of the tent city.

Rubbish is strewn throughout the campsites, with plastic bottles and tubs lining the floor.

There are baskets filled with clothes and other items throughout the community.

Ewan Lund, a barista at a beachfront cafe, said he was aware of rough sleepers but said for the most they kept to themselves

Ewan Lund, a barista at a beachfront cafe, said he was aware of rough sleepers but said for the most they kept to themselves

Sleeping bags can be seen along the ground of the common areas - which may suggest some people sleep outside as well as in tents

Sleeping bags can be seen along the ground of the common areas – which may suggest some people sleep outside as well as in tents

There are sleeping bags placed along the sand which may suggest people are sleeping on the dunes as well as in tents.

One of the tents has a green tarp hung over its roof, attempting to camouflage with its surroundings. 

There are several bikes, scooters and surfboards packed into the squatters camp – with locals say have been stolen from the nearby carpark. 

People have witnessed rough sleepers mining the area for unlocked cars and leftover belongings.

There are three different campsites situated along the coastline - all within close proximity of beachgoers

There are three different campsites situated along the coastline – all within close proximity of beachgoers

One campsite has seen people burrow into the sand and hang tarps over the dugout to create a canopy

One campsite has seen people burrow into the sand and hang tarps over the dugout to create a canopy

They say they have seen residents from the encampment pose as tradies in high vis vests to not arouse suspicion while attempting to take things from parked vehicles.

One person said they witnessed the rough sleepers watching people who had gone into the water with binoculars, before stealing the possessions they left in towels on the sand. 

NSW Police said there had been no link between the rough sleepers and incidents in the area, but Northern Beaches Council confirmed they had attempted to make contact with those living on the dunes.

‘Council is aware of individuals camping at Dee Why Lagoon and is in contact with NSW Police, Community Northern Beaches and Mission Australia who are providing outreach services to the people sleeping rough,’ a Council spokesperson said.

A pile of rubbish can be seen in one part of the tent city - including what appears to be a beer keg

A pile of rubbish can be seen in one part of the tent city – including what appears to be a beer keg

The tent city sits just beyond the beach's southern carpark - with locals saying its occupants can often be seen looking for belongings

The tent city sits just beyond the beach’s southern carpark – with locals saying its occupants can often be seen looking for belongings

‘While protection of the Dee Why Lagoon Wildlife Refuge is a priority, Council is working on a balanced solution that manages environmental impacts while being sensitive to the wellbeing of those living in the area.’

The council confirmed it could not force the rough sleepers from the dwelling. 

‘When dealing with people sleeping rough, Council operates in accordance with the Northern Beaches Homeless Persons Protocol. In implementing the Protocol, Council seeks to recognise the rights of homeless people as well as balancing the needs of public space and the environment.

‘Council always treats these people with compassion and attempts to refer the individuals with a view to having them engage with appropriate supports.’ 

Residents have complained to the council over the damage the rough sleepers are causing to the native environment

Residents have complained to the council over the damage the rough sleepers are causing to the native environment

Dee Why's shopfront filled with cafes and restaurants is just a couple hundred metres from the tent city - but locals say they've never seen its occupants

Dee Why’s shopfront filled with cafes and restaurants is just a couple hundred metres from the tent city – but locals say they’ve never seen its occupants

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