Workers on the ground call out for more support for Canberra’s homeless population

Lottie Twyford 2 August 2021 29
Man sleeping in the back of his car

Sleeping rough in winter is particularly difficult given Canberra’s cold climate. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Sleeping rough on Canberra’s streets as the city shivers through sub-zero temperatures is bad enough, but those on the ground say there simply aren’t enough services available to change the situation for the capital’s homeless population.

That’s not to say that people aren’t out there helping, but it’s taking its toll on those who are on the streets and workers in the sector, as Homeless Care Packs’ Ammie Barrett knows only too well.

She’s convinced that the situation since the pandemic began last year has only become worse and that homeless people are, in some cases, resorting to violence to move each other on.

“Not only are the police and businesses moving homeless people on, it’s now leading to more violence,” she said.

Ammie is angry and frustrated with the current situation and says she is under the impression that there’s “nobody out there who cares”.

But most people Ammie helps are friendly and appreciative of anything that can be shared with them – whether food, toiletries, clothes or pet packs.

Care packs

Homeless Care Packs are full of anything from warm clothes and blankets to toiletries. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

She and her wife Geraldine Freeman are now operating Homeless Care Packs out of their own back garden shed. Most evenings, they drive around Canberra and find people sleeping rough and then provide them with the services they require.

While they have a team of people who will come along and help them with deliveries, building the packs is down to Geraldine and Ammie.


READ ALSO: Root causes of homelessness of women and children are being ignored


Currently, they’re calling out for donations of funds as well as goods to keep them operational.

While Ammie says services like the Sleepbus are a good start, “one night off the streets doesn’t help people moving forwards in their lives”.

Ammie also thinks that a service such as Beddown, which turns areas like car parks, which are busy during the day but vacant at night, into pop-up accommodation, would greatly benefit those sleeping rough on Canberra’s streets.

Having experienced homelessness herself, Ammie knows only too well exactly how those on the streets are feeling. It was losing her brother in 2019 that really put Ammie back on the path to turning her life around.

“I was put in a house, but I didn’t have the life skills to know how to look after myself and get into a routine, so it wasn’t the best option for me,” Ammie explained.


READ ALSO: Psst, Canberra, can I tell you something?


Ammie is convinced that along with permanent housing being provided for people, there needs to be constant support services, especially when they are already struggling with mental health issues and substance abuse.

“Throwing somebody in a house without any support is only setting them up to fail. I know because I experienced it.”

Homelessness Week started on Sunday 1 August and runs until Saturday 7 August. It’s a national initiative that aims to bring awareness of the impact of homelessness throughout Australia.

Minister for Housing and Homelessness Services Rebecca Vassarotti said the ACT Government does, in fact, work closely with the sector to fund a large number of support services, including material aid, outreach services, emergency, refuge and transitional accommodation to improve outcomes for people at risk.

“Supporting the needs of Canberrans at risk of or experiencing homelessness is critical to improving outcomes for both the community and individual,” she said.

Minister Vassarotti recommended that individuals who are at-risk of or experiencing homelessness engage with the OneLink, the Government’s central intake provider for homelessness services which can help people connect with support and organisations to meet their specific needs.

The ACT Government also funds Street to Home, which provides outreach to people sleeping rough. Other services in Canberra available for those who are homeless include the Queanbeyan and Canberra sleep buses.

If you are homeless or at risk of homelessness, OneLink provides information and connections for support services in the ACT, including services for families and young people. A list of front-line community organisations can be found at VolunteeringACT and ACT Government funded homelessness services.


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29 Responses to Workers on the ground call out for more support for Canberra’s homeless population
Alex Swalling Alex Swalling 11:30 am 05 Aug 21

Yup and there is a gov house that has been empty for over 3 months. 3 bedroom in Charnwood. Total waste! A needy family could have been in there for this winter. Been in contact with department of housing at least 6 times and still not even cleaned!!!

Trilby Walker Trilby Walker 12:05 am 05 Aug 21

It's the same in South Australia.im 56 and homeless living in a tent on the edge of the River Murray near Berri.ive been here for almost 6 months.

Shirley A Drower Shirley A Drower 9:28 pm 04 Aug 21

There should be no one homeless in Canberra.

    Helen Frances Helen Frances 9:37 pm 04 Aug 21

    Shirley A Drower this is so sad :(

    Trudi Riley Trudi Riley 9:50 pm 04 Aug 21

    Shirley A Drower There should be Noone homeless Anywhere. 😭

Jennifer Bishop Jennifer Bishop 5:52 pm 04 Aug 21

The centre of our corrupt overpaid federal politicians and they could care less about the homeless. They are far more interested in rorting and wasting millions on buying g a block of land for $27 million more than it was worth. Ironically the land was owned by one of their party donors.

Vvek Dev Pant Vvek Dev Pant 11:51 am 04 Aug 21

public is the biggest helper in any means. government cannot reach everywhere where public can reach.

Xenii Newnham-Kell Xenii Newnham-Kell 9:30 am 04 Aug 21

Sleepbus -helping those in difficult situations have a warm place to sleep.

Sleepbus Queanbeyan is a mixed gender bus and is available Thursday - Monday nights inclusive, more days will be added as volunteer numbers are secured.

Sleepbus Canberra is at the Uniting Church Tuggeranong, this is a women and children's bus only and is available Friday - Sunday inclusive until more volunteers are secured.

If you would like to become a volunteer and donate some of your time have a look at the website sleepbus.org to sign up.

We are a wonderful bunch of people who just want to do our part to make a difference in the lives of people who need it.

Annie May Annie May 4:58 am 04 Aug 21

Can't the government even Build tiny houses? So sad .

    Lynne Starick Lynne Starick 7:35 pm 05 Aug 21

    Annie May great idea…won’t be an expensive outlay 👏👏👏👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼

whatwik whatwik 10:24 pm 03 Aug 21

Particularly obscene when there’s all that publicly facilitated ‘church property’ around the place used for a fraction of the week by a diminishing fraction of the populace.

Peter Doyle Peter Doyle 10:06 pm 03 Aug 21

What has covid done this

Sue Skinner Sue Skinner 4:46 pm 03 Aug 21

The Minister lives in fantasy land....One Link often has nothing to offer, & at best a few days in a motel. Not their fault....just not enough places out there.

A SP Pillai A SP Pillai 4:39 pm 03 Aug 21

In a developed country with great economy!

bj_ACT bj_ACT 3:06 pm 03 Aug 21

ACT Government has reduced the proportion of public housing but just as importantly the Housing Minister hasn’t adopted Community Housing options to anything like the level of the other States.

Mr Barr loves to spout the high proportion of public housing in Canberra, without admitting how non profits now provide housing for low socioeconomic residents in other States and Territories. He compares Apples with Oranges.

Rachel Wilkinson Rachel Wilkinson 2:44 pm 03 Aug 21

Big believer in tony house villages and sleep pods.

Debbie Matia Debbie Matia 2:39 pm 03 Aug 21

Very sad that our homeless . Doesn't get help

Samten Jigyaldo Wangmo Samten Jigyaldo Wangmo 12:12 pm 03 Aug 21

I empathise for those freezing in the cold without food or a roof over them❤️❤️❤️

Leigh Watson Leigh Watson 11:51 am 03 Aug 21

Unbelievable! It would be the easiest thing in the world for the ACT Govt to build more public and community housing.

    Redland Ian Redland Ian 3:49 pm 03 Aug 21

    I think ACT Govt should just require 3-5% of units in high rise units be available at a discounted price for ACT Housing to buy. Otherwise no approval. No ghettos please and a bit of dignity.

    Kathryn Mary Jones Kathryn Mary Jones 5:26 pm 03 Aug 21

    Leigh Watson how do you commercialize public⁉️

Charles Godworth Charles Godworth 11:23 am 03 Aug 21

More and more are being pushed onto the streets because of the reduction in public housing by the greens-labor government over the past 10 years. Just see how many people are sleeping rough around the city and in parks during winter shows how dire it is for the thousands who have been shunned by mayor rat and barr

Kerry McDonnell Kerry McDonnell 8:15 am 03 Aug 21

Omg. What happens to them if Canberra gets a covid lock down? Where have all the homeless in sydney and other places gone through this. Very concerning

Kelly Emblen Kelly Emblen 7:28 am 03 Aug 21

Sleepbus gives a warm place to sleep with toilet tvs heaters comfortable can park your car and jump in for the night ever your pets can stay i have just started volunteering. Queanbeyan & Erindale for women only

    Nada Krstin Nada Krstin 6:38 pm 03 Aug 21

    Kelly Emblen wonderful. Hope a sleepbus has been established for men as well.

    Kelly Emblen Kelly Emblen 7:22 pm 03 Aug 21

    Nada Krstin the one in Queanbeyan is for both

Lynda Watson Lynda Watson 2:11 am 03 Aug 21

Disgusting so many empty housing properties why can't they go there. God bless

    Jan Cairney Jan Cairney 1:17 pm 03 Aug 21

    Lynda Watson This called confiscating peoples properties. Stop negative gearing, and commercial tourist industries in residential zones that pay residential rates i.e Air B & Bs what is called black money.

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