By Andrew McKaysmith, Writer and Content Creator QLD Synod.
Homelessness Week will take place from August 1 to 7, and the theme this year is ‘To end homelessness, we need a plan’. The theme seeks to raise awareness of the need for a national plan to address the issues driving rising homelessness.
Jody Willoughby is the Statewide DFV & Homelessness Manager, UnitingCare Queensland. In her role, she oversees campaigns to support rough sleepers by helping them find accommodation.
Mrs Willoughby said UnitingCare is leading The Advance to Zero campaign on the Gold Coast, which has already successfully eradicated homelessness in pockets of the United States.
“Our initiative is to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring, and you do need a plan, which is The Advance to Zero Campaign, a plan to end homelessness,” she said.
“But one of the first things you must do is know who’s sleeping rough and is out on the streets. If we can identify who’s sleeping rough, why they’re sleeping rough and their vulnerabilities, then treat them as individuals.”
The Rough Sleepers Working Group is an advocacy group working directly with rough sleepers by sharing information across organisations. The group advocates for the increased availability of affordable housing, which Mrs Willoughby says is crucial to help keep people off the streets.
Through a coordinated approach, we’ll know who’s homeless and support them immediately,” she said.
“Once we understand who’s sleeping rough and the number of homeless people, we can advocate for housing. We can go to the housing department to help us.”
Uniting Care continues to play a significant role in the region by finding volunteers to support campaigns. Mrs Willoughby said it was crucial to their work that the community became involved through volunteering.
“This is an ‘us’ problem. It’s a community issue. It’s about all of us,” she said.
“It’s imperative that we help raise awareness, not only to the housing department for advocacy but also to the community, so the community understands that this is not just a homeless issue.”
Learn more about Homelessness Week here.