The NSW Hunter region’s annual day to provide one stop shop services to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness was back, bigger and better than ever, in 2022 following a two year COVID19 enforced break.
More than 1200 guests, 600 staff from 120 services and 60 volunteers participated in the event at the Newcastle Showground Exhibition Centre on August 10.
Hunter Homeless Connect (HHC) chairperson and event organiser, Michelle Faithfull, is also Home in Place’s Community and Events Manager.
Michelle said it was fantastic to have the event back. She said the common theme from conversations with people on the day was they were so happy to be together again.
“Many have missed the physical connection. There was so much positive and grateful energy at the event,” Michelle said.
“Most importantly people experiencing or at risk of homelessness were able to get expert help from services providers in so many areas,” she said.
“Thanks to support from Hunter New England Health and other providers our health hub was extensive. There were free health checks and eye and hearing checks, immunisations, podiatry services, diabetes screening as well as support from breast screening, drug and alcohol, mental health, diabetes, brain injury, continence, and community and aged care services.”
“Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander services, refuge and DV support services as well as key government agencies such as NSW Births, Deaths & Marriages, Services NSW, Services Australia (Centrelink), and Hunter Water were all there.”
“Home matters, help matters and hope matters and this important annual day helps to shine a spotlight on homelessness in our region and gets people vital support in a safe, non-threatening way.”
Michelle said people experiencing homelessness were particularly vulnerable during the pandemic and need support more than ever.
“Many lost their jobs due to COVID-19 restrictions and many remain at risk of homelessness.”
“Hunter Homeless Connect Day is an excellent example of what service providers, government agencies, businesses and individuals can achieve by working together.”
The 2016 Census showed that more than 116,000 Australians, including 1,750 in the Hunter, were experiencing homelessness but Ms Faithfull said COVID-19 impacts, domestic violence, as well as increased property prices and rents and a lack of social housing means the figures for the Hunter and Australia have likely increased. A survey conducted by volunteers at the 2019 event revealed that, for the fourth straight year, women outnumbered men among those seeking assistance. The 40-54 age group continued to represent the largest number of attendees.
“We need to dispel myths about homelessness and highlight its hidden nature. For example, approximately 7 per cent of people experiencing homelessness are sleeping rough, many more are couch surfing, or in refuges, boarding houses and emergency accommodation.”
“Homelessness has appalling effects on people’s health and well-being, which is made worse by the fact that around one in ten have a disability and one in four suffer from a mental health issue.”
The Hunter Homeless Connect directory will also be available. It contains crisis contacts, clothing, emergency relief, healthcare, housing, food providers, domestic violence, refugee services, drug, alcohol and gambling services, financial support, mental health, and pet care. There are specific sections for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people with a disability and young people. A PDF copy is available on the Hunter Homeless Connect website and there is a mobile App version.
Hunter Homeless Connect is a volunteer run, not for profit organisation working to build an inclusive community with zero judgement. Supported by a community coalition of government and non-government services and volunteers, HHC helps people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. The first Hunter Homeless Connect Day was held in 2009.
For more information or to support its work visit www.hunterhomelessconnect.org.au