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Homeless to be housed in churches

Warmth ... Richard Griffiths from St Columba's Uniting Church in Braddon plans to turn the community hall into a safe house for the homeless during winter.

Warmth ... Richard Griffiths from St Columba's Uniting Church in Braddon plans to turn the community hall into a safe house for the homeless during winter. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

A controversial proposal to house the homeless in church facilities is close to reality in Canberra, more than a year after the project was first raised.

Safe Shelter's plan to accommodate people overnight in church halls was initially opposed by the government last year, when then community services minister Joy Burch voiced concerns over health and safety requirements.

However recent negotiations over the pilot project, to be run out of St Columba's Uniting Church Hall in Braddon, has given organisers approval to launch the trial in May.

Adequate fire protection improvements must first be carried out at the cost of approximately $5000, but organiser Briony Griffiths said the project had already received significant financial support.

“ClubsACT have committed to helping financially with the building certification process,” she said.

“They also have linked us up with some builders who are happy to be involved. We've just had approvals on Sunday to move ahead with that work as soon as the builders are able.”

Once launched, the project will accommodate up to eight people as well as several volunteers from 7pm to 7am. Targeted at men over the age of 18, Safe Shelter will also provide swags that the men can then take with them if required.

Though the Braddon facility will operate one night a week, Ms Griffiths hoped more churches would open their doors once the program launched.

“We're going to start with a pilot here in this one hall for this winter, but the aim is still to have other churches involved in making their halls available other nights of the week,” she said.

“We really see this as an opportunity to do it well, but also test the waters as to the need.”

Fellow organiser Richard Griffiths said the project, already successful in cities such as Brisbane in Sydney, also hopes to break down some of the stigma surrounding homelessness.

“They are totally invisible,” he said.

“Most of them are not threats.” 

4 comments

  • Wonderful! It's about time churches were allowed to help in this area. Well done St Columbias!

    Commenter
    Squeamish
    Date and time
    February 28, 2013, 10:43AM
    • I trust this is to be reserved for the genuine aussie person generally through no fault of their own stuck on the streets and not sold of to charities for refugee placement as is becoming a regular practise elsewhere in this great land of ours..

      Commenter
      MIKE the HAMMER
      Location
      ACT
      Date and time
      February 28, 2013, 12:38PM
      • Churches in New York City have been doing this for years my daughter used to get up at 5am to help get them breakfast it was part of community service high school students had to do a wonderful,idea it also helped her understand the plight of others less fortunate.

        Commenter
        amro
        Date and time
        February 28, 2013, 10:49PM
        • St. Columbias is to be congratulated on this initiative.
          Maybe the concept should be adopted by other churches and denominations who are sitting on millions (or billions) of dollars worth of land given to them ( free) by gullible authorities and occupied once a week for an hour or so.

          Commenter
          Ernie
          Location
          Holt
          Date and time
          March 02, 2013, 5:06AM
          Comments are now closed
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