Helping Provide Support for Ballina’s Homeless

Monday 31 July 2020

When the concept was first discussed more than a year ago to create a support service for Ballina’s homeless, it received strong support from Ballina’s business community, service clubs, Ballina Shire Council and State MP Tamara Smith.

The reasoning was simple – the Shire has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the NSW Northern Rivers, with more than 150 people considered to be sleeping rough on an average night, whether outdoors, in cars, couch surfing or in low-cost accommodation. There was nowhere for them to shower, get free computer or phone access, no-fuss medical care or referral support for Centrelink and other essential services.

Vinnies began working with the Ballina Catholic Parish to upgrade the three-bedroom Harmony House, which had been offering low-cost accommodation for some years, as well as developing an adjacent drop-in service to assist people experiencing homelessness.

Both have now been accomplished, with Harmony House to offer transitional housing for locals preparing to return to normal community life, and the spacious rear of the property being independently accessible and inclusive outdoor space. This drop-in service will operate Monday-Friday and include a consulting room for medical visits and casework support such as advice and advocacy, and referral to professional services.

A valued supporter is the local ETC (Enterprise & Training Company), an employment search service that has contributed $30,000 to help fund the fit-out of bathrooms in the drop-in service, which is due to open soon. Other important support has come from the NSW Government ($80,000), the Claffy Foundation ($10,000 for an outside kitchen), and the Rotary Club of Ballina ($4000 for all weather blinds).

Andrew Goodchild, Business Accounts Manager/North Coast, Vinnies homelessness outreach worker Bryan Jamison, Project Construction Manager Carlo Maestri, ETC Board member Isabel Borrelli, Vinnies Special Works Manager, Community Inclusion Linda Williams, ETC Team Leader Disability Megan Shepherd, and (front) ETC Business Adviser Danielle Goniman celebrating ETC’s funding for Vinnies drop-in service.

“This is the latest sign of various groups getting behind a project that is so important for the wellbeing of people doing it tough, as well as for the betterment of the broader community,” said Linda Williams, Vinnies Special Works Manager, Community Inclusion.

“Ballina is a very popular visitor destination and hosts the gateway airport for Byron Bay. The average person wouldn’t associate it with homelessness, but this is the reality, and a service of this kind is so important. The community recognizes this, which is why we have been so well supported. However, running the service for the numbers we expect won’t be cheap, so all support is welcomed.”

If you’d like to find out more, or find out how you can help this service, email linda.williams@vinnies.org.au