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Byron Shire
February 1, 2023

Homelessness hub under immense pressure

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A new homelessness hub in Byron Bay has been so inundated with requests for help, that the service already needs additional staff to meet the demand.

Just 21 days after opening, Fletcher Street Cottage has had 570 visits from local people seeking assistance, including 170 individual appointments with its community support team. At the same time, the newly renovated service and its volunteers have served up 630 breakfasts, facilitated 220 showers and 80 laundry uses.

‘I don’t even know the right word to describe the housing situation any more… an emergency, a crisis…’ said Jenny Ryan, the homelessness projects manager at the Cottage.

‘We’re just dealing with the situation day-to-day.’

Ms Ryan said those coming to the Cottage had a diverse range of needs. ‘We are seeing those people who are sleeping rough in and around town, but also flood affected people coming in for brekkie and then asking about broader support’.

‘There’s a huge range of requests, from people coming in to get their identification documents sorted, others seeking housing support, while some are just seeking a bit of respite from the wet weather – somewhere dry to get a cuppa and chill out for a while.’

Staff at the Cottage have been run off their feet and reinforcements may be needed to keep meeting the demand.

‘I’m looking at staff going “We need more people on the ground”,’ Ms Ryan said.

The Byron Community Centre, which is responsible for the overall management of the Cottage, is asking for donations from the community to help them employ an additional social worker.

No government support, donations, staff needed

‘We don’t receive any government funding, so we rely on the generosity and support of the community,’ the Community Centre’s General Manager, Louise O’Connell said.

‘We would love some additional support so we can hire another staff member to help out at Fletcher Street.’

The renovation and reopening of Fletcher Street itself was the result of a huge community effort.

Locals donated more than $400,000 to bring the space back to life after it was forced to close six years ago owing to a lack of funding.

Scores of tradies also donated their time and expertise, transforming the run-down Council-owned building into a welcoming space that has been specially designed to help those experiencing homelessness feel safe.

‘This is what we were wanting to create – a place where you’ve got service delivery in one place,’ Ms Ryan said.

‘It’s working extremely well. People are feeling comfortable to be there. The come for brekkie and then say “well maybe I’ll take the next step and get some help”.’

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