Homelessness on the Northern Beaches

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Manly is a beautiful area of Sydney, yet sometimes we forget that not everyone living here has a roof over their head and a safe place to sleep. Homelessness doesn’t discriminate, and can affect anyone. Daniel Peterson is Community Northern Beach’s Homeless Outreach Worker and offers support to people who are experiencing, or at risk of homelessness. ‘Once I find someone who needs my support, I’ll sit down with them and assess their needs, and work out how we are going to help them, both in the centre and also with external pathways like referrals for housing, or other wrap-around support,’ Daniel says. ‘It’s really important because we are identifying people who need help and we’re advocating for them, we’re able to be a voice for them.’

In the last 5 years, the rate of homelessness on the Northern Beaches has increased by 63%, and Daniel agrees it’s a big problem, even if it’s not as obvious as in other areas of Sydney. ‘There’s certainly a lot of couch surfers and people who are living in cars on the Northern Beaches, so it doesn’t appear as obvious but it’s definitely there. I think in Australia there are some that are quick to judge those experiencing homelessness, as they think they just need to get a job, be disciplined, work hard and sort their problems out themselves. But having that kind of viewpoint doesn’t acknowledge the complexities of issues that people are experiencing and the trauma that some have experienced. It’s hard to empathise if you haven’t been through the same circumstances.’

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The drop-in centre at Community Northern Beaches offers free hot coffee/tea and pastries during the week, as well as food and supplies for people in need. The door is always open for anyone wanting to come in for a chat, or to seek help from Daniel or any one of our workers or volunteers. ‘For someone to reach out and say ‘I want to hear your story’, ‘I want to know what’s happened’, it helps people feel validated and not so isolated. ‘Isolation is a huge problem for people experiencing homelessness, constantly feeling ignored and marginalised from society for so long. We all need to work towards de-stigmatising homelessness and be as inclusive as we can possibly be’.

Daniel’s role is diverse, and keeps him constantly busy. Anywhere from two to ten individuals will come to the centre or call on the phone each day, seeking help, advice or sometimes just to chat. He is either based at the drop-in centre, or out and about seeking out people sleeping rough. ‘I’d encourage anyone feeling concerned about this issue to not be afraid to talk to those experiencing homelessness, even if you feel you have nothing to offer them, just talk, and more importantly, listen. You’ll find you hear so much trauma and hurt, but also so many incredible stories. Reaching out in this way will have an impact, and you can refer them to us. Homelessness is always going to exist in our culture unfortunately, as we can’t stop mental health issues from occurring and we can’t stop relationship breakdowns in people’s lives. What we can do is let those experiencing homelessness know they’re not alone and that there are people out there wanting to help them get back on their feet’.

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With winter and cold weather fast approaching, Community Northern Beaches is currently seeking sleeping bags, beanies, socks and backpacks to help those in need. We really appreciate when the community donates supplies, as it enables us to create positive relationships with our clients and helps us provide better care. If you have any items to donate please call 9977 1066 or please drop them off during the week from 10-3pm at 12 Wentworth St, Manly.

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