Songs for Ballarat’s homeless

The 2016 Census is expected to reveal an increase in homelessness nationwide. Homelessness is not just a metropolitan issue, with regional centres like Ballarat also experiencing a surge in people seeking support from agencies.

A fundraising concert was held at Ballarat Central Uniting Church on 20 August, with more than $4,000 going towards UnitingCare Ballarat’s homelessness support services.

The church was buzzing with energy and rhythm as the Melbourne Singers of Gospel performed in front of nearly 200 people.

UnitingCare Ballarat CEO Carolyn Barrie said the idea for the concert came about following contact between the Melbourne Singers of Gospel and Ballarat Central Uniting Church minister Rev Kate Tierney.

“The choir heard we were having conversations about homelessness in our community so they offered to come and put on a concert,” she said.

“They sounded fabulous and it was fantastic singing. The acoustics of the church were amazing because it was built on the side of a hill in the shape of an amphitheatre.”

Approximately 75 people sleep rough in Ballarat every night. Increasing rates of family violence, unemployment, lack of access to crisis accommodation and housing shortages have contributed to more people seeking support from agencies.

UnitingCare Ballarat runs a range of programs to assist homeless and vulnerable people in the region.

“We have accommodations, transitional housing, medium and longer term housing, and a guest house that accommodates about 50 people,” Ms Barrie said.

“We also have a housing establishment fund which we use to support people with rent or bonds.”

Another program that supports homeless people in the region is the long-running BreezeWay Meals program.

Operating since 1998, BreezeWay Meals provides warm meals for people who are marginalised, homeless, living in insecure accommodation or have no cooking facilities. It runs from 10.30am to 1.00pm every day and serves approximately 65 meals daily.

In winter, the café-style environment becomes a place of warmth and shelter from the chilly Ballarat weather.

Local nurses and Centacare Ballarat welfare workers also visit the café to assist clients on a no-name, no-fee basis. BreezeWay clients can be referred to a range of services, including homeless support housing, alcohol and other drugs and emergency relief programs.

Ms Barrie hopes the Melbourne Singers Gospel can return to Ballarat for a repeat performance.

“The feedback was just so positive, people were so uplifted and it brought so much joy,” she said.

“Our heartfelt thanks to the Melbourne Singers of Gospel.”

On this week’s Friday Forum: what are some of the ways your church or local community is supporting people experiencing homelessness?


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