Vinnies Opens Mary’s Place Homeless Service in Ballina

Thursday 26 November 2020

The doors have swung open on St Vincent de Paul Society’s drop-in centre in Ballina, servicing a population with one of the highest homelessness rates in regional NSW.

Named Mary’s Place, in honour of Aileen Mary Delaney who made a generous bequest to Vinnies, the service is well located on the corner of Treelands Crescent and Moon Street, Ballina.

It is set up to provide light refreshments, showering facilities, outdoor space for socialising, computer access, medical and nursing care, Centrelink engagement service, legal and housing support, and psychological and counselling services.

The free service will be open on weekdays between 8.30am and 12.30pm, with outreach services visiting to help those who drop by. It will operate between 1.00pm and 3.30pm for more in-depth casework.

Adjacent to Mary’s Place but independently accessed is Harmony House, a three-bedroom service providing accommodation for residents transitioning back into community living after facing major challenges that may have included homelessness. Harmony House retains its original name and has been fully refurbished and upgraded.

“Research shows that Ballina experiences significant levels of disadvantage compared to NSW generally in terms of income, education and employment opportunities,” said Niamh Mannion, Executive Director Vinnies Services.

“The latest Census revealed more than 500 people in the Ballina LGA were either homeless or at risk of experiencing homelessness. Mary’s Place is the first and only such service in this fast growing and generally affluent coastal town, and we are proud to have the strong support of the community.

“Ballina Shire Council has been behind the project from the start, as has Ballina MP Tamara Smith, and local service clubs and businesses. It has been a wonderful community endeavour, with everyone recognising the need for a service of this kind.

“Living rough is a terrible experience, exposing people to violence, robbery, sexual assault and a loss of personal dignity that is hard to recover from. Vinnies has a long history of supporting vulnerable community members, and this service is well placed to undertake some wonderful work.”

Mary’s Place is the latest drop-in service run by Vinnies for disadvantaged people on the Far North Coast of NSW, following the successful establishment of Fred’s Place in Tweed Heads and Pete’s Place in Coffs Harbour. Both of these services are now seeing up to 90 people each day, with visitor numbers growing because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Team Leader Bryan Jamison said Mary’s Place has volunteering opportunities for suitable local people and invites anyone interested to contact him on 0457 896 407.

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