One Voice Hastings Homeless Support Group

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The One Voice Hastings Homeless Support Group aims to help the 400 + homeless people currently estimated to be struggling in our local area with resources such as showers, access to food and clothing – and to provide a voice for those currently doing it a bit tough. Through education, the group also hopes to educate the community at large about some of the myths and stigmas associated with homelessness. One of the group’s passionate founders, Paul Skilleter, tells us more …

Hi Paul. Where did your interest in community work begin?

In 2012, my partner, Holly Farrugia, and I moved from Sydney to start a fresh life in Port Macquarie. The reason I started One Voice Hastings Homeless Support Group is because as a teenager I went through homelessness, suicide, depression, drugs and alcohol. I couch surfed at friends’ places, slept in the park, but with the right support, I came out the other side a better and stronger person.

When we moved to Port Macquarie, I knew I wanted to give something back to the community. I started studying my Certificate IV in Community Services Work and did my work placement at the Hope Shop in their Welfare Department. I became an active member of the Hastings Homelessness Network and the Hastings Community Connect Day and was named Volunteer of the Year for Port Macquarie in 2013 for my work with the Homeless/ Disadvantaged. I have completed my Diploma of Community Services Work and transitioned into a Floor Manager role at the Hope Shop; I’ve now been working for the Hope Shop for five and a half years.

Tell us more about One Voice Hastings Homeles Support Group and how it was formed …

In 2014, the Rotary Club of Port Macquarie West approached the Hope Shop to see what they could do to help with homelessness in our community. We started a community group and from there, things have grown in leaps and bounds.

One Voice Hastings Homeless Support Group is an extension service of One Voice for Aussie Youth serving the Port Macquarie/Hastings LGA. With our partnership with www.onevoice.org.au comes access to their corporate sponsors, Aldi Australia, who will be providing all the toiletries, SC Johnson, who will be providing all the cleaning products, and Mate Communications, who will be providing us with free Wifi.

What services does the group offer?

The main feature of our service will be a mobile shower service (truck) fitted out with two showers. We will also be running an advocacy service, with access to a qualified counsellor, which will enable service users to connect with other organisations to help them find and gain housing, employment, links to education and training, Centrelink payments, and counselling services.

Do you need volunteers?

On staff we need to have qualified social workers, welfare workers, case managers, counsellors and drivers and members of the community who have a passion for homelessness and change. So if anyone is interested in becoming a volunteer, please feel free to contact us via our Facebook page: One Voice Hastings Homeless Support Group.

What types of issues do you feel the group will be able to address?

Our service will assist with housing, homelessness, mental health and alcohol and other drug related issues, whilst also providing an educational service to the broader community on the effects and causes of homelessness, to ameliorate the stigma of homelessness one step at a time.

The overwhelming majority of clients come from lower socio-economic population groups.

A part of our mission is to use our resources to the best of our ability to enhance the quality of life of people who are homeless on the streets of the Port Macquarie/Hastings LGA, and to prevent the factors that can cause homelessness wherever possible.

We work tirelessly to break down the stigmas, stereotypes and myths often incorrectly associated with homelessness, and to educate and raise community awareness with regards to the causes of homelessness.

Our aims are to: provide showers, access to food, clothing, street swags, care packs to those who are homeless and disadvantaged; assist those who are homeless with their application for supportive accommodation through advocacy; provide services to those who have gained supportive accommodation that assists them with their transition to, and retention of their accommodation; educate and raise community awareness of the causes of homelessness, and to break down stigmas, stereotypes and myths surrounding homelessness; empower those who are homeless by giving them a voice, allowing them to make their own decisions about their future and allowing them to take control of their destiny; advocate for those who are homeless when they are unable to have a voice.

What are some of the statistics you’ve uncovered about homelessness?

The overall rate of homeless people in Australia is 105,327 people sleeping rough; every night young people under the age of 25 make up 43% of homeless Australians.

We have conducted an extensive Needs Analysis and conducted surveys, and after carefully going over the data from the 2016 Census Data for the Mid North Coast, we’ve found: on the Mid North Coast there is approximately 1,909 – 2,700 homeless/disadvantaged people, with the average weekly income for a person 15+ being $491.00

In Port Macquarie there are approx. 400 – 480 homeless people, with approx. 150+ homeless youth (majority couch surfing).

What have been some of the achievements the group has made to date?

We’ve managed to gain the support/sponsorship from “Live Tribe”, an online survey company as part of their Noble Causes Initiative. They normally choose a charity to support each month to the value of $1,500, but the director has decided to run ours until the end of December to the value of $2,500.

We have a long way to go before we reach our target of $121,000, but the support of the community has been amazing. We need support now more than ever; we especially need Corporate Sponsors.

We’ve been attending markets and music festivals around town (Port Macquarie Beer and Cider Festival, Wildwood Festival, Twilight Markets) to raise awareness and funds for our project for the homeless on the Mid North Coast.

We’re working on holding some more fundraisers in the future; our barefoot bowls fundraiser was a huge success; thanks to the Westport Club for hosting it and all the local businesses who donated prizes.

How can we see the group in action within the community?

The truck we will be using will be on tour of Port Macquarie from the 9th – 11th January, with a presentation at the Rotary Cluster BBQ on the 9th January, with our locations to be advised.

How can the community help?

There are a couple of ways to donate: via our One Voice website: http://onevoice.org.au/port-macquarie/

Or via our One Voice Donations Account: BSB-923 100 / Acc# 60737861 /Ref: PMMSS

Thanks Paul. 

Photo: Steve Atkin, Paul Skilleter, Holly Farrugia and Tyler.

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