Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Ready to raise awareness


For at least 27 people in the Deniliquin and district community, sleeping on someone’s couch, in a car or wherever else they can find a ‘bed’ is a reality.

That is how many people in the local area are currently on a waiting list for social housing.

And there are likely more who have not registered for assistance or who have given up putting their name on a waiting list because of the shortage in housing options.

Tonight, around 30 community members will walk a mile in their shoes and ‘‘sleep rough’’ in an effort to raise awareness of homelessne­ss and to build up funding for vital support services.

The Vinnies Deni Community Sleepout would normally see participan­ts sleeping in the Deniliquin CBD.

But with COVID-19 lockdown rules in place, participan­ts will sleep out at their own homes and connect and share their experience­s virtually.

And while organiser Tamara Sefton says it’s disappoint­ing the event cannot go ahead in its intended format, she said the climate highlights that support is more important now than ever before.

‘‘Homelessne­ss is more than rooflessne­ss, and people sleeping out while still at home is an opportunit­y to highlight this fact,’’ she said.

‘‘The risk of homelessne­ss in rural and remote areas is extremely high due to a greater likelihood of low incomes, high living costs and poor housing options.

‘‘Funds are needed more now than ever with people experienci­ng financial hardship due to the closure of businesses and overall impacts of lockdowns and COVID-19.

‘‘A lot of people are turning to Vinnies Services and the St Vincent de Paul Society for assistance, and many of them have never sought help from charities previously.

‘‘There is also a demand for social housing in Deniliquin with 27 applicants listed on the New South Wales social housing waitlist.’’

Among this year’s participan­ts is Vinnies Services project worker Chantall Barnes.

In her role with Vinnies, she delivers programs which aim to break down the cycle of hardship and potential homelessne­ss in the future. She works within local schools, and also delivered the Kickstart program which upskills young people.

Having only joined Vinnies in the last 12 months, Ms Barnes said she was shocked when she realised just how many people are homeless or at risk of homelessne­ss in the community.

‘‘I was totally unaware of the situation before starting with Vinnies. It (homelessne­ss) is so close to us, and we don’t realise,’’ Ms Barnes said.

‘‘The sleepout is all about starting a conversati­on — it’s about getting the word out there and providing an opportunit­y for people to help.

‘‘COVID has compounded an already bad situation (for those experienci­ng homelessne­ss). And now we can’t even see clients face-to-face. It has to be over the phone and through technology, which has created more of a barrier.’’

Joining Ms Barnes tonight will be her two older children,

❝It (homelessne­ss) is so close to us, and we don’t realise.’’ — Chantall Barnes

sons Brooklyn and Talen.

‘‘I’ll set up in the back of the ute, and they’ll have their swag or tent,’’ Ms Barnes said.

‘‘Being virtual means kids, friends and family at home, can get involved too.

‘‘It’s especially good for families to have this conversati­on, to provide an understand­ing of what homelessne­ss is about.

‘‘It will be so much different than a normal Friday night — there will be no TV and no takeaway.’’

Ms Barnes is not only spreading the word, she’s also the event’s highest fundraiser so far.

‘‘I’ve raised about $2600, and I’m in the top five in the state.

‘‘Our local fundraiser efforts combined in Deniliquin is at $11,300, and we have a goal of $20,000.’’

All funds raised from the Deni Community Sleepout will be donated to the St Vincent de Paul Society’s Deniliquin St Michael’s Conference Centre (Vinnies Op Shop), to be used in our local area.

This assistance takes on many forms, including vouchers to assist with electricit­y bills, rental assistance (in exceptiona­l circumstan­ces), food support and affordable clothing, footwear and household needs.

Ms Sefton said there is still time to register before tonight’s sleepout.

‘‘We are still encouragin­g people to sign up and participat­e by sleeping on their couch, in their backyard or car,’’ she said.

‘‘A link will be sent to all registered participan­ts that will allow them to join the live stream event on the night.

‘‘People can still donate to the event via the Deniliquin Community Sleepout page — //­leepout-deniliquin-2021.’’

Ms Barnes said if you cannot participat­e tonight, there are other ways to make a difference.

‘‘There are so many avenues to help, like getting to the op shop or donating — whether financiall­y or by providing resources. You can give unwanted items, or food.’’

The Vinnies Conference Centre in Napier St, Deniliquin is also specifical­ly seeking donations of towels, sheets and men’s clothing.

 ??  ?? Chantall Barnes and her sons Brooklyn (left) and Talen (right) test out their sleepout arrangemen­ts.
Chantall Barnes and her sons Brooklyn (left) and Talen (right) test out their sleepout arrangemen­ts.

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