HOMELESSNESS may not look like an issue in Bathurst, but that's only because those in that situation are experts at hiding it.
The Bathurst Uniting Church, with the help of community groups and organisations, has increased its efforts to address the issue of homelessness in Bathurst.
A discussion forum held at the church hall last week was attended by more than 30 people, some representing organisations and others having volunteered with the Uniting Safe Shelter (USS).
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At the beginning of the forum, USS coordinator Julie Greig said that the shelter was only meant to be a temporary service and it was not the sole initiative that would solve the issue in Bathurst.
"It's emergency accommodation; we are not showing this off as the best accommodation ever around. It is basically mattresses on the floor in one room," she said.
"Our guests are required to leave at 7.30am in the morning. It doesn't matter if it is minus four degrees and raining, they still have to get out the door at 7.30am, and then they're essentially back out on the streets until 5.30pm."
Ms Greig said USS members and the church "would like to do ourselves out of a job sometime in the next three years", helping to solve homelessness to the point that a shelter wasn't needed, which was why it was reaching out to other services.
Last week's forum saw attendees work in small groups to discuss and provide answers to four questions.
These were around what homelessness looks like in Bathurst, the main issues associated with it, how different organisations are addressing homelessness and what needs to be done in future to reduce the issue.
People reflected on their own experiences working with homeless people in the community and brought up key issues, including mental health, addiction, the breakdown of family relationships and a lack of affordable housing.
They also noted that homelessness wasn't only an issue for men and that women were also sleeping rough.
"There's lots of people out there hiding in places where we wouldn't even think to look," Ange Brown of Wattle Tree House said.
The Uniting Church hopes to organise a meeting with member for Bathurst Paul Toole and the Minister for Water, Property and Housing, Melinda Pavey next month.
If successful in coordinating a meeting, representatives will present them with ideas that could help solve the issue in Bathurst.
Among the priorities will be finding ways to open more crisis accommodation and lobbying for funding for more case workers and health workers to assist homeless people in Bathurst.
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