GIMME SHELTER: Westpac Bank staff Caroline Maggs and Jenelle Condon with and Byron Community Centre staff Paul Spooner, Gwen Gould, Rohena Duncombe, Michael Maloney, Cherie Bromley, Julia Harrington, Pippy Wardell, Tanya Helipern, Tahnee Serone and Alyssa Purdee.
GIMME SHELTER: Westpac Bank staff Caroline Maggs and Jenelle Condon with and Byron Community Centre staff Paul Spooner, Gwen Gould, Rohena Duncombe, Michael Maloney, Cherie Bromley, Julia Harrington, Pippy Wardell, Tanya Helipern, Tahnee Serone and Alyssa Purdee. Christian Morrow

Giving shelter from the storm

WHEN storms lash Byron Bay those living on the street often have nowhere to go at night to stay dry and sleep safely during these severe weather events.

Byron Community Centre's Wet Weather Shelter Project is just one program offering some much needed shelter for these men and women and Westpac Bank Byron Bay stepped up this week handing over a cheque for $10,000 to the Shelter project to run their pilot program for a full year.

The grant was one of 200 grants for $10,000 the bank offers through its Westpac Foundation Community Grant with recipients having to write a grant application to receive the funding.

The Shelter program operates two wet weather shelters for 18 nights per year, one in the Uniting Church, with space for up to 25 men and the other in the Anglican Church for up to 10 women.

Shelter administrator Alyssa Purdie said the Westpac Grant will allow the pilot program to run for a full 12 months and amass data on the program's needs so permanent sponsorship can be sought.

"This is great as it has helped us buy high quality camp beds and allowed us to purchase pillows, bedding and linen and to cover staff costs, for a security guard and staff member at each site, together together with emergency lighting and headlamps,” Alyssa said.

According to an audit conducted in August by Community Centre volunteers and Council compliance staff, it is estimated that up to 150 people sleep rough on the streets of Byron Shire each night with between 40 and 50 bedding down around Byron Bay itself.

Westpac Byron Bay Manger Jenelle Condon said the bank was proud to be part of the Shelter team.

"No one likes to be wet at night and Shelter gives our homeless people somewhere to be safe and dry during extreme weather events and this is what we want to do- to keep our community safe.”

Finance manager at Westpac, Caroline Maggs said the problem of homelessness really hits home for staff as the bank is located opposite Railway Park in Byron Bay.

"We are here in the centre of town so we see these people every day,” Ms Maggs said. "We see the homelessness problem and we know all of them by name, we say hello as we arrive for work each morning- we care about them.”



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