On Saturday, 6 July, people from the Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst (Bendigo) attended a homelessness forum at St Brendan’s Church to consider the Catholic Bishops Social Justice Statement 2018-2019 on Homelessness, and to seek ways for Parishes to respond to this issue. This was a well attended event with some 70 people attending.
An outline of the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Social Justice Statement “A Place to call Home” was given.
People become homeless for many reasons. For some, family violence is the cause, for others it is mental illness, or unemployment, prisoners released from confinement, youth couch-surfing (for many reasons) and older people who lose their dwelling or place of residence.
An overview of housing need and housing stress in Shepparton was given. Council to the Homeless Persons state that for regional Victoria, Shepparton has the highest number of homeless persons for a regional city. The figure of 372 homeless persons was given – some sleeping rough, some in supported accommodation services for the homeless, some couch-surfing, some in boarding houses, others in improvised housing (tents, garages) and the remainder – many – in serverely overcrowded dwellings.
Anecdotal evidence was presented about people sleeping in parks, sleeping in cars.
The median age of most of the homelessness was 25-34; most are single and there is a disproportionate representation of women over 55 years of age presenting as homeless.
CatholicCare Sandhurst director Rhonda Lawson gave an overview of the Diocesan survey on homelessness and capacity to respond to demand. This was a particularly honest survey and response.
A presentation was given from a worker at The Cottage in St Georges Road, an addiction recovery site. Monsignor Peter Jeffrey spoke about a homelessness meeting held in Mooroopna some years ago and a joint venture in Mooroopna North between St Mary’s Parish, The Haven, and City of Greater Shepparton, which is in the process of being finalised. Others spoke of potential social housing projects for the elderly, and funding efforts taken up by local welfare organisations (St Vincent de Paul Society) for emmergency accommodation.
The document Ten Steps for Making a Home for Everyone in our Land was given for reference, reflection and action.
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