As the nights start chilling despite this year’s Indian summer, the city’s homeless men can now look forward to a roof over their heads with the reopening of Safe Shelter ACT for the winter.
Using three church halls in the inner north, Safe Shelter alternates between the three, with one shelter open every night from Sunday 22 April until 29 September from 7 pm to 7 am.
All Saints Anglican Church, 9 Cowper St, Ainslie will open one of its halls on Sunday and Monday nights. St Columba’s Uniting Church, 10 Fawkner St, Braddon will open its Lewis Hall on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. The Salvation Army’s Canberra City Corps hall on the corner of Fawkner and Elouera St, Braddon, will be open on Friday and Saturday nights. All are on the No 7 ACTION bus route.
Safe Shelter said that census figures showed that the number of “sleeping rough” homeless in Canberra that could be counted rose from 28 in 2011 to 54 in 2016. ”Anecdotal advice from welfare agencies and the AFP suggests that the number could be higher, so the need is growing, not falling,” it said.
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The numbers of men seeking shelter with Safe House had almost tripled last year.
During the 23 weeks from 24 April to 29 September its more than 100 volunteers provided 381 “bed-nights” for homeless men.
Safe Shelter had hoped that the ACT Government would provide funding for more crisis accommodation but it had not materialised.
Coordinator Richard Griffiths said the ACT Government believed crisis accommodation was not essential in this town.
He said that according to the Government’s referral centre OneLink, if someone became homeless the average time to find accommodation was 25 days.
“In theory, I suppose people are supposed to spend at least 25 days on the street or in their cars,” he told ABC Radio.
The volunteers who run the shelters welcome the guests, provide hot drinks and generally ensure that all the guests can get a peaceful, dry and reasonably warm night’s sleep. On their one night per month, the volunteers sleep on the hall floors, like the guests.
When the guests leave the shelters at 7 am, they are encouraged to go to the Early Morning Centre, 69 Northbourne Avenue, Civic for breakfast and to start to connect with support services that will try to help them find permanent accommodation.
Safe Shelter ACT currently has over 100 volunteers, many of whom have served in previous winters. All must be over 18. Two-evening induction courses for new volunteers will continue throughout winter, with the next courses scheduled for 1 and 2 May and 15 and 16 May.
For more information call Safe Shelter Coordinator Richard Griffiths on 0412 164 404.