Leaders brave cold for homeless


St Vincent de Paul Society’s Matthew Talbot Homeless Service saw 701 people who were struggling with secure housing in the 2017/18 financial year.

With three months to go in this financial year, they have already seen 729.

It’s a concerning rise and it makes the funds that will be raised in support of the service at this year’s Newcastle CEO Sleepout even more needed.

To be held at McDonald Jones Stadium on 20 June, the sleepout will see local business leaders don their winter woolies and bed down in a sleeping bag in the hopes of raising more than $150,000 for the homeless service.

Last year’s event brought in $153,000, which funded an additional case worker and a private property officer.

Case workers assist with not only securing accommodation but supporting clients with more complex needs, such as physical and mental health issues.

Property officers focus on finding private properties for clients to move in to.

“The challenge with homelessness is always the ‘moving on’ accommodation,” Maitland/Newcastle Vinnies special works manager Belinda McDaid explained.

“We have temporary accommodation and that is for three months, but it’s about the moving on and moving on is about getting an affordable rental.

“Rental in Newcastle has been really challenged in terms of the cost and increases over the year.”

The service places a focus on homeless men, a demographic that Ms McDaid said had not typically sought assistance in the past.

“Men by nature don’t seek out help, and that goes for men with children as well,” she said.

“Sometimes we have to be a lot more proactive engaging men to come forward [but] the more you publicise something, the more comfortable people are to come.”

Taking up the sleepout challenge is the Australian Taxation Office’s Robyn Kelly, who will be participating for the first time after being told about the event by a friend.

“I’m a runner, so I tend to run for things, but I thought ‘sleeping? I’ll give that a go!’,” she said.

“I’m not nervous.

“It’s one night, and for some people in our country, sadly, this is their reality 365 nights a year.”

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