Monday, 24 June 2013
Western Sydney Homeless Connect
I rise today to speak about an outstanding initiative happening in Western Sydney, with the announcement of the Western Sydney Homeless Connect operating as a fully fledged not-for-profit organisation. Data show that there are about 300 people just in Parramatta who do not have a warm home to go to at the end of the day. As we know, unemployment in the seat of Parramatta sits at 7.2 per cent, with youth unemployment in Western Sydney still at an unacceptably high 17 per cent. There are individuals and families right across Western Sydney struggling with higher costs of living, but there are individuals struggling to source the basics of day-to-day existence. Of course, government policy is not making this easier, with an economy that is not doing well in Western Sydney. Every time a government makes it harder for a small business or other employer to take on an additional employee we are adding to this problem, and we need a better government to take these sorts of policy concerns seriously.
Western Sydney Homeless Connect, however, are working very hard to address this on a large scale. Their mission is to connect available services, including government agencies, with people looking for support and guidance. They do this through the connect day, which provides a venue for people to navigate through the various government and community services in a friendly 'one-stop shop' environment and find clear pathways to escape from and avoid homelessness: through medical pathways, to connect the sick and vulnerable with medical and personal care providers which they may otherwise have difficulty accessing; connecting donors with something to give to the homeless and those who are less well off to improve their health and wellbeing generally; and, of course, engagement—connecting homeless people, who often feel alienated from society, with volunteers and community members with whom they can engage in a relaxed and friendly manner and help rekindle a sense of community belonging. They also assist with collaboration, providing a relaxed and friendly forum for representatives of local business, the non-profit community, individual volunteers, private sector organisations and local governments to connect with each other to further develop these relationships. These are essential for successful collaborative efforts in reducing homelessness. They also work to create a better understanding and awareness of the homelessness issue in the wider community.
Western Sydney Homeless Connect is working in partnership with Parramatta City Council to hold their annual Western Sydney connect day. This year's day will be held on 5 August at Parramatta town hall and relies entirely on unpaid volunteers and donations in the form of gifts and services from individuals and private sector organisations. I want to commend Lord Mayor John Chedid and all at Parramatta City Council for supporting this initiative to help those less fortunate in our community. I also want to thank Steve Butel, director of Western Sydney Homeless Connect, Barry Gobbe, the secretary and treasurer, and Dale King, the event co-ordinator, for the many hours of tireless work they have put in to ensure the success of this organisation. Furthermore, my thanks go to all the other community organisations, including the Rotary and Lions clubs, who are supporting the fine work of Western Sydney Homeless Connect in their coordination of the Western Sydney connect day. This important initiative will pay great dividends in our community in bringing people together.