World Homelessness Day: how can you help?

Rough sleeping is on the rise in Byron Shire, home of the highest number of people who sleep rough per capita in NSW outside of Sydney. Photo Rudiger Wasser.

Aslan Shand

It can be easy to dismiss those who most need our compassion, understanding and help – certainly our politicians are leading the way. Anne Ruston’s recent attack on people on Newstart saying any increase in benefits would be spent on drugs and alcohol, is just a symptom of how out of touch some politicians and people are with the struggles many Australians face.

For those who are struggling most, like people who are homeless in Byron Shire, a little respect and kindness from strangers can go a long way.

Increase in rough sleepers

Byron Shire saw an 18 per cent increase in rough sleepers since last year’s count. With World Homelessness Day this Thursday October 10 the focus is once again on how you can help.

‘Most people who live homeless have a history of poverty and childhood abuse or trauma,’ said Rohena Duncombe, a lecturer at Charles Sturt University, who is currently researching her PhD on homeless health in Byron.

‘Overall this means various presentations of traumatised personality symptoms that people try to manage with substance use. This is totally misunderstood in the community where aggression and intoxication are assumed to have caused the homelessness, which may not be the case. This justifies for some, being judgemental and cruel – Council removing all their belongings, charities saying they have enough money for alcohol, people throwing things at them, police busting them etc.’

A hard life

It is already a tough existence when you are homeless with research showing that homeless people get sick more often, have shorter lives and use fewer primary health services than the rest of the population. The cruelty they experience aggravates their symptoms, making them less trusting of organisations, undermining their chances of recovery.

Ms Duncombe points out that the ‘thing people living homeless value most is kindness – I know it sounds naff but when you spend your days and nights in strugglesville, people who treat you as a human being are a blessing. If people had a better understanding, it might encourage more compassion.’

Zero Homelessness

This Thursday sees the launch of the Byron Zero Homelessness Project by local councillor Paul Spooner and business entrepreneur Brandon Saul. Their aim is to raise funds to place tiny homes around the Shire so people have safe places to sleep. Habitat businesses are giving 10 per cent of their sales, and Habitat management are donating all the retail rents on Thursday toward the project. If you want to support the project contact Cr Spooner at: [email protected] or visit:

7 responses to “World Homelessness Day: how can you help?”

  1. john Lazarus says:

    A sick joke from the Parklands developers 58000 attendees and bands who are responsible for increasingly turning homes into holiday lets, in conjunction with the private empire builder/developers mate Spooner

  2. Barrow says:

    Great work Aslan !! ..and yes zero Homelessness would be a wonderful outcome ..127.000 Australians doing it tough ..including 40.000 kids on the streets is concerning that our Government’s have spent Billions on refugees abroad , whereas our own citizens are sleeping rough !! Not very fair at all !! Anyway all you people who show so much empathy and compassion for the refugees, which is not a bad thing ..however how about showing some compassion for our own refugees in Australia – The Homeless!! Please do more !! And thanks Echo are Working above the line bringing this to the attention of our Shire and Beyond 🤗

  3. Keith Martin says:

    We are on a square mile of unused bush land.
    I let a couple of harmless homeless people stay on the land free of charge causing no one any problems,
    Incredibly nasty people from the council terrorised and persecuted these people until they left dispossessed.
    We were threatened with million dollar fines.’
    We had to get an advance from Centrelink to cover fees.
    It is so sad and depressing that there are such cruel people in our society

  4. Liz Levy says:

    What costs a lot of money is offshore detention and going to any lengths to make people’s lives as miserable as possible to make ‘an example’ of them or to look tough on border control. It’s very expensive to be cruel to be kind. Or to reopen Christmas Island as a mere election stunt complete with media contingent – cost $185 million.

    Meanwhile the number of illegal plane arrivals is blowing out.

    • Barrow says:

      Do concur ! However why should the taxpayer’s of Australia have to fund illegal foreigners..most of them have good intentions..better life for their word of advice it the legal way most people’s of the world do ..and yes so many come by plane ..and over stay and apply to stay in Australia.. once again WHO pays for this ?
      Government’s do not have any money !! Anyway getting of track …the homeless is where my heart is !!

      • Liz Levy says:

        There are a nation’s preferred ways to control refugee intake but ultimately it is not illegal to seek asylum. This principal was established globally in the aftermath of world war 2 with the huge numbers of displaced and the horror stories of persecution. Those fleeing persecution are not ‘illegals’ or queue jumpers no matter how much it soothes our consciences to think so.

  5. Ebony Purnell says:

    We have a very visual representation of homelessness here in Byron, with lots of rough sleepers, but what is not counted in this is the increasing levels of locals living in vans and working locally. Which I call the happy and healthy homeless. If we add their numbers to the mix then it would be extremely difficult to count just how many more people are truly homelessness in this town.

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