The rough sleeping count has been conducted across Byron Shire annually for several years and has consistently highlighted that Byron Shire has the highest number of rough sleepers per capita outside of Sydney.
On the back of these numbers an important community initiative is getting under way next week to connect with rough sleepers and look at the help and assistance they need. The End Street Sleeping Collaboration Connections Week will run between 16 and 20 November.
‘We were flagged because our street count was so high,’ Cherie Bromley who is the Community Programs Manager at the Byron Community Centre told Echonetdaily.
‘We’ve got a big demographic of rough sleepers so this is an opportunity to find out about their needs, history, how they came to be here, challenges, barriers to ending rough sleeping and what they have tried to do before that has either worked or not.’
The initiative is being run by a collaboration of Byron Shire Council, Social Futures, regional NGOs and the End Street Sleeping Collaboration. It follows a similar, successful survey conducted in Sydney in November 2019.
During Connections week trained volunteers and workers will connect with rough sleepers and conduct voluntary interviews with them about their situations and their lives. The aim is to establish a By Name List – a comprehensive database of rough sleeping in Byron Shire. The survey follows a similar count held in Sydney in November 2019 by the End Street Sleeping Collaboration (ESSC), a collection of leading NGOs and Sydney Council.
‘There will be up to 50 people, both paid workers and volunteers working on this. Byron Shire Council have put on some extra hours to facilitate the process,’ said Ms Bromley.
‘Since the COVID crisis we have been supplying rough sleepers with mobile phones, advocating to Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ), buying tents and paying for camping sites as well as helping people with taxis fares to Ballina so they can access temporary accommodation. There is no temporary accommodation in Byron Shire.
‘We hope to have the DCJ available for crisis response work during the coming week to assist.’
While Byron Shire has a reputation for affluence Social Futures CEO Tony Davies has pointed out that it is also ‘home to some of the most vulnerable members of our community – and many are sleeping rough.’
‘This survey puts people at the centre and works to build a complete picture of rough sleeping, which is vital in informing Government policy and supporting services like ours to bring people out of homelessness,’ Mr Davies said.