Brian Mighell from Lifehouse Care Centre does of quick stocktake of beds. More are urgently needed.
Brian Mighell from Lifehouse Care Centre does of quick stocktake of beds. More are urgently needed.

The rough sleepers

By LEE McDOUGALL

MEENA Johnson knows all too well the challenges faced by the city's homeless population.

As co-ordinator of the Coffs Harbour Accommodation Brokerage and Housing Support Service (CHABHSS), Ms Johnson deals with between 20 to 30 calls a week from people either homeless or about to become homeless.

The service, auspiced under Community Housing Mid North Coast and funded by the Department of Community Services (DoCS), has assisted more than 400 people since August last year.

At present, there are an estimated 52 to 54 people who are homeless, living under bridges, on the beach, in parks and carparks in the city.

These people, defined as 'rough sleepers', are now being targeted under a pilot project between Community Housing, Department of Housing and CHABHSS, called the Rough Sleepers Project.

"In the majority of homeless cases it is mental health or drug-and-alcohol related or domestic violence that results in them becoming homeless," Ms Johnson said.

"With the Rough Sleepers Project, we are working at breaking the homeless cycle. We work collaboratively between the three services to identify the needs of the individual, devise a case management plan and then work day to day with crisis support.

"We have a three- to six-month exit from case management once the individual has reached their goals."

While Coffs Harbour has provision for a women's refuge and a youth refuge, if you are a male over 16 years or a family then the options are unfortunately very limited.

"In Coffs Harbour we have a youth refuge and a women's refuge but nothing for families and men, and this places enormous pressure on existing services," Ms Johnson said.

Barbara Edols is the case co-ordinator of the Personal Support Program for WorkDirections Coffs Harbour. She works closely with the Rough Sleepers Project and the three services involved.

She has nothing but high praise for the Department of Housing and their efforts in addressing the city's homeless situation.

"The initiatives that have come out of the Department of Housing in Coffs Harbour are fantastic," Ms Edols said.

Wanted: all the basics for a good night

WHEN it comes to accepting items of clothing, furniture and bedding for the city's homeless and needy, Carol Sleep is not fussy.

"If it is clean and not rags, we will take whatever we can get," the manager of Lifehouse Care in Earl Street said.

"We will take anything from beds to bedding to sleeping bags, tents, tarps and all clothing."

Ms Sleep said that moving into the colder winter months saw an increase in the demand on services such as Lifehouse Care, Coffs City Mission and the Salvation Army.

"A lot come in during winter because in the warmer months it's not so bad and it's easier to cope," Ms Sleep said.

"Also, with all the recent rain we have had, a lot of those who are homeless have struggled with getting their clothes and bedding dry. Clothes are getting damp, as is their bedding, and with the colder nights their health begins to suffer.

"When homeless people get sick it gets a lot harder for them. They are okay while they are fit, but when they are sick, it can get very bad really quickly."

Ms Sleep said as well as dealing with those classified as homeless, Lifehouse Care also assisted those who had recently moved out of crisis accommodation or refuges.

"We have a lot of people who have just moved into a flat or a house and they have absolutely nothing," Ms Sleep said.

"Most have been living with domestic violence and are starting afresh so need tables and chairs, beds, lounges and bedding, pots, pans, crockery and cutlery."

Ms Sleep said even basic items such as shoes and socks were often required.

If you are able to provide assistance, contact Lifehouse Care on 6652 3116.



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