Hero for the homeless given his marching orders
HE has been hailed a hero of the homeless, but Coffs Harbour City Council has shut him down.
Himona (also known as Simon) has operated a barbecue breakfast at the Park Ave bus stop near Woolworths most mornings for many months now and knows first hand the pains of hunger felt by homeless people on the streets of Coffs Harbour.
"I was homeless, yes here in Coffs Harbour, so I know what it's like to do it tough," Himona said.
For the past six months he's operated officially under a licence held by the Coffs Harbour Uniting Church but council have now terminated this.
"To my mind he is a hero, somebody who has a passion, and who has the courage to actually do something about it - he is not somebody who has a lot of money," Reverend Myung Hwa Park said.
"He is actually wanting to give even though he doesn't have much."
A Council spokesperson says the service was running on a trial basis but will not be extended for a number of reasons.
"A six-month trial for a barbecue at Park Avenue carpark for homeless people was not extended due to a number of safety concerns and issues raised with Council by community members and local businesses," the spokesperson said.
"These included an increase in alcohol consumption and anti-social behaviour in the vicinity of the carpark area and neighbouring businesses, as well as safe access issues for pedestrians and public transport users due to increased activity causing significant congestion around a major pedestrian movement corridor and bus stop."
But Reverend Park says she visited the barbecue on several occasions and didn't witness any anti-social behaviour or drunkenness.
"No I don't think so, because it's a barbecue do you think they are operating some sort of bar there?
"No I have been there a number of times and not on any occasion did I see people sitting there for longer than thirty minutes or so."
She admits there has been some issues with loud music and Himona was made aware of the complaints and had committed to keeping noise levels down.
"Yes I admit that was a problem but it was not a consistent kind of thing and Simon was aware of that and definitely reduced it."
She would like to see Council do more about the issue of homelessness in Coffs Harbour.
"The barbecue is for people who are marginalised and needing that kind of support. Obviously in this town we don't have enough support for people like this and the barbecue has been very good for those people who are homeless or lonely and seeking that sort of support."
Council suggested the barbecue be relocated to an alternative site such as Rotary Park (across from Council chambers) and Brelsford Park but Reverend Park says these locations are not appropriate.
"Council tried to relocate it to somewhere it doesn't directly affect the supermarket or main shopping area but then by the same token the people who are needing that kind of support gather around that shopping precinct.
"It is very hard to say for me, who has a strong view on advocating for poor people or marginalised people versus the interests of big business."
Reverend Park is in conversations with Himona about providing an alternative service at another suitable location.
While serving up breakfast for those in need Himona also raised thousands of dollars through community donations to contribute to homelessness support services co-ordinated by the Sawtell Uniting Church.