21.6 C
Byron Shire
May 10, 2021

Churches step up for homeless in severe weather

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Co-ordinator of a new shelter project, Elyssa Purdie. Photo Jeff Dawson

Paul Bibby

If you’ve been put out by the rains that have lashed the Shire recently, spare a thought for the region’s homeless population. Thankfully, the Byron Community Centre has been doing just that.

The centre is working with local churches to set up two severe-weather shelters where local rough sleepers can seek out a dry warm bed and a hot meal when the skies really open.

The co-ordinator of the shelter project, Elyssa Purdie, said Byron’s disproportionately large population of rough sleepers made the shelters a necessity.

‘This is a Shire where the proportion of rough sleepers is six times the national average,’ Ms Purdie said.    

No emergency accommodation

‘At the same time there’s basically no emergency accommodation.

‘So when the weather really hits, which it frequently does at this time of year, the impact on our rough sleepers is quite severe in terms of both their physical and mental health.’

Two separate shelters will be set up under the project – one catering for up to 25 men and the other with a capacity for 10 women.

Owing to limited capacity, the shelter will not be a drop-in service and rough sleepers are asked to come and register their interest at the Byron Community Centre or Vinnies Conference.

Once someone is registered they will be referred to a shelter, allocated a camp bed to sleep on, and have the opportunity to enjoy a meal provided by Liberation Larder.

Each shelter will also have a security guard to ensure safety.

‘This will benefit the community as a whole, not just the rough sleepers,’ Ms Purdie said. ‘During severe wet weather there is an increased use of both public and private space by rough sleepers understandably looking for shelter from the harsh conditions, and in the past this has upset members of the community. Quite a few members of the public have become upset that this kind of thing is happening. The shelter plan will reduce that community impact by giving them somewhere else to stay.’

But for the project to get off the ground the Community Centre needs volunteers.

‘We need people who can come in and set up the shelters, welcome the people and offer them a cup of tea as they arrive, and just help with the general running,’ Ms Purdie said.

‘It’ll only be a couple of hours’ work, but it makes a big difference.’

Those interested in volunteering can email Elyssa on [email protected]


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