Safe Shelter for the Homeless in Canberra

Lewis Hall St Columba'sThis winter, the St Columba’s Uniting Church in Braddon, will be opening its Lewis Hall for homeless men to sleep one night per week. This is a project supported by several churches in the North Canberra area. A local team supported by UnitingCare Community Development Worker, Briony Griffiths, is now looking for volunteers to support the project.

To volunteer, please contact: Briony Griffiths, Community Development Worker, Canberra Region Presbytery Ph: 02 6248 9311, Email: bgriffiths at unitingcaredisability.org.au

For more about the Safe Shelter project…

St Columba's 2“Canberra is an unforgiving place to be without a home and I am very passionate about making a difference in this area”. Volunteer.

The Safe Shelter project has been in preparation for two years but hit hurdles around building certification, a reluctance from the ACT Government, and the loss of several organisers. However, in late 2012, with support from the new UnitingCare Community Development Worker for the ACT, the Safe Shelter organising group has been able to resolve these issues such that a pilot project will be launched for winter 2013.

The basis for the Safe Shelter project is that inner city church halls are often unused overnight and, on selected nights, could provide safe, warm places for at least some of the homeless men seeking shelter in Canberra. Church halls have been used successfully in this way in a number of Australian cities, including Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, as well as internationally. It is the aim of the Safe Shelter pilot project to have other Church halls open on a rotating basis, ensuring availability of a safe shelter every night of the week during winter. Halls need to be within walking distance of the broader homeless support services, including meals, shower/laundry facilities and referral networks.

St Columba’s Uniting Church is committed to the support of the underprivileged and the socially marginalised, seeking to find Christ in the stranger and the persecuted. At the same time, the congregation is ageing and few. Volunteers for the pilot project come from the general public, the broader Uniting Church community and other denominations – those who share a concern for the homeless in their community.

The Safe Shelter is not a permanent solution to homelessness. However, with significant reductions to funding available for emergency homeless services in the ACT in 2013-14, it is anticipated that more people will be sleeping rough around the city. Already, more than half of all people who seek emergency accommodation in the ACT each night are turned away. As such, the Safe Shelter is short term emergency assistance to those who need it on that particular night. The pilot project has the support of ACT Shelter Inc. and has received financial assistance from ClubsACT and the Rotary Club of Canberra.