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Community sleeps rough in Mackay

Ken Whyte. Photo by Osker Lau
CHURCHES AND community service providers joined forces in Mackay to raise awareness of the rising homeless population in the town by hosting the Mackay Sleepout in August.

The event coincided with National Homeless Persons’ Week and saw members of the Mackay community, including
students, church leaders and even an MP, sleep rough on 2 August.

St Paul’s Uniting Church in Mackay’s Ken Whyte said the idea came from fellow Church member Don Leckenby.

“Four years ago he took up the plight of the homeless people living around St Paul’s,” said Mr Whyte.

“There have been homeless people around the church for about 50 years because it is an inner-city church.”

The inaugural Mackay Sleepout attracted 86 registrations and ended up raising over $1500 to assist the Mackay Homelessness Outreach Partnership (MHOP) in their aim to open a drop-in centre.

“There were four of our homeless people from St Paul’s who came down and gave us support too,” said Mr Whyte.

“We said as this was our first, we were doing it for awareness rather than money.” In true community spirit, four radio presenters, the Federal Member for Dawson, George Christensen MP, local clergy, and UnitingCare Community (formally Lifeline) Area Manager, Frank Gilbert, slept out. Speakers from Relationships Australia and Queensland Health also provided insight into homelessness.

The local Dominos Pizza provided dinner and the Lions Club cooked up a sausage sizzle for all those sleeping rough.

MHOP is a combined group of people in community services, government departments and faith-based groups all working together to find a solution for people experiencing homelessness in Mackay.

Organised in six weeks, the inaugural event was a success.

“We ran it as an experiential event. It cost us very little to run and we got a lot of publicity from the community who are concerned about the people on the streets,” he said.

“We’ve built up a lot of relationships in doing what we have done with those people who are either in community welfare
organisations or government departments.”

Photo : Ken Whyte. Photo by Osker Lau