TEAMWORK: Anna Scott, manager CH Neighbourhood Centre and Dave Tilson, manager Pete's Place
TEAMWORK: Anna Scott, manager CH Neighbourhood Centre and Dave Tilson, manager Pete's Place TREVOR VEALE

Clean start for the homeless

EVERY day is laundry day at Pete's Place. Since opening the doors 12 months ago, 1700 loads have gone through the machines.

"We've had the dryers burn out twice from so much use,” manager Dave Tilson said.

Pete's Place is a drop-in centre for homeless people in Coffs Harbour, providing essential personal services such as bathroom and laundry facilities, and food.

The facility is a purpose-built extension to the Coffs Harbour Neighbourhood Centre in Earl St, managed through the St Vincent de Paul Society, with a heavy reliance on local volunteers.

"We always knew there was a need for such a service,” Dave said. "Anywhere between 24 and 45 people a day drop in - some for a shower or to do laundry, others need company and a cuppa, help filling out forms or to use the phone.

"There's nowhere else for people to go - and we're still in a situation where people are hearing about us.”

Named after the late Peter Grealy, a benefactor of the St Vincent de Paul Society, Pete's Place is in the enviable position of not needing new volunteers.

"The support of the community and the amount of donations has been amazing, we now have a waiting list for volunteers,” Dave said.

"Everyone has been so generous in their support, it really has been incredible and indicative of the type of caring community we live in.”

In the past year, the team at Pete's Place has formed several partnerships. They've formed a close bond with their neighbours as well.

"Centrelink comes in once a week, the Sawtell Ukulele group come in and have a bash, we've had the Health Authority come in with a smoking cessation program and we're in early consultations with Mid North Coast Health to work alongside them,” Dave said.

"Next door is Coffs Neighbourhood Centre. They're our strongest partnership, we work in tandem with them.”

These two doors have become a "one-stop shop” for food, counselling, legal advice, showers and laundry, offering dignity and practical solutions for those doing it tough.

You might be surprised at the face of homelessness and struggling citizens on the Coffs Coast.

Anna Scott, manager of Coffs Harbour Neighbourhood Centre, said: "More and more we're seeing families, females on their own and a growing demographic is post-retirement women.”

Over 5000 visits, 1800 showers and 1700 loads of laundry in the past year demonstrate the value of Pete's Place.

"So many of our service users say it's a 'life saver' and they don't know what they would do without the facility,” Dave said.



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