THE prospect of a safe place to sleep and a hot meal has given a glimmer of hope to Bathurst’s homeless men during the winter months.
It is all because of the Uniting Safe Space (USS) project, an initiative developed by an expert advisory group that included the Bathurst Uniting Church, Anglicare, St Vincent de Paul, the Salvation Army, the Bathurst Catholic Diocese, HopeCare, The Bridge Community and Wellways Australia.
USS offered homeless men a place to sleep, a meal and vouchers for a hot breakfast in the morning, as well as the opportunity to be linked with support services in the community.
It was run over the coldest part of the year and will conclude on Sunday night.
Project coordinator Julie Greig said USS got off to a slow start, but eventually grew to cater to between four and six men each night.
Some of these men were regulars, while others were people who only needed the service for a couple of nights.
“We had a really slow start with no one coming, but at the beginning of August we decided to open seven days a week and it picked up from there,” Ms Greig said.
“We were due to shut in mid-September, but we decided to extend it because it has been quite cold and people are still coming.”
The project has been supported by the Holy Trinity Church, which provided meals, and St Joseph’s, that provided assistance with laundry.
There were also 35 volunteers from the community, who took turns staying overnight with the guests.
“We got quite a number of the first year paramedics students – they’ve been fantastic – and we’ve had some students from TAFE and the others were volunteers from the community,” Ms Greig said.
“Our volunteers have all come with an incredible openness about the people they’d be working with.”
She said the volunteers had “a great deal of respect” for the overnight guests, who respected them in return.
An afternoon tea will be held next week to thank the volunteers.
In other positive news from the program, one of the men utilising the service has enrolled in further education, while several people have been referred to the appropriate support services upon request.
“What appears to happen is, having some sort of normality in their lives – a place to sleep at night, a place to have a meal – allows them to deal with what else is going on in their lives,” Ms Greig said of the program.
Other than a couple of tiny incidents, Ms Greig said USS had run smoothly and it was now time to assess the trial thoroughly to see whether it can occur again across winter next year.
Services in the community are invited to come to a meeting on November 13 at 2pm at the Uniting Church hall to share their own thoughts on USS, which will be considered in determining the future of the project.