Compass Housing calls for community to tackle homelessness

Vision: Michael Neilson said equity built up in the first City Sleep Safe centre will provide the deposit for further centres. Picture: Simone De Peak
Vision: Michael Neilson said equity built up in the first City Sleep Safe centre will provide the deposit for further centres. Picture: Simone De Peak

HUNTER businesses will be asked to contribute to a new project that provides the homeless with short term accommodation, access to a live-in case manager and existing services, work experience and help to move into supported and then permanent housing.

Newcastle Now executive manager Michael Neilson and businessman John Cross launched City Sleep Safe this month, using private funds to lease a former hostel in Mayfield to accommodate 20 people who pay part of their income and for food. They are hoping to make a deposit to build their own centre designed by university students by the end of 2019. “We want to bundle up the chronically homeless, rough sleepers, along with their addictions and health challenges and take them back to our place and love them back into life,” Mr Neilson said. The men shared their idea at Compass Housing’s Ending Homelessness workshop, on Thursday.

Compass’ group managing director Greg Budworth said the workshop brought together groups working on homelessness projects to share ideas and resources.

“We also want to take the work in our region to another level by seeing if, together, we can identify one or two big ideas we can all get behind to really tackle homelessness in a big way [and take them to the government and corporate sector for funding and support],” Mr Budworth said. “It’s distressing to live in a city of such affluence and see such poverty – we need to do something about it.”

CEO of Common Ground Queensland Sonya Keep explained to the audience about her organisation’s 146-apartment Brisbane building, which was built by the federal government and is owned by the state government. The units are leased to the homeless and those seeking affordable housing.

Chair of the Hunter Foyer Project Brad Webb spoke about plans to provide accommodation, support services, skills workshops and mentoring for young people committed to education, training or employment.

Compass research and development manager Professor David Adamson said it cost $48,217 to support a homeless person, but only $35,117 if they were housed.

The 2011 Census showed there were 105,237 homeless people in Australia, up 17 per cent in five years.

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said this census included 2000 people in the Hunter, as well as 100 sleeping rough and 600 living in crisis accommodation or boarding houses.

St Vincent de Paul special works manager Belinda McDaid told the audience 52 people were recorded during Newcastle Registry Week last October as sleeping rough across the local government area.

Another 16 people have since been added to the database.