CARERS: Byron Bay Community Centre general manager Paul Spooner (left) and Major Darren Elsley, of the Salvation Army, at The Cottage that will help meet the daily needs of the homeless.
CARERS: Byron Bay Community Centre general manager Paul Spooner (left) and Major Darren Elsley, of the Salvation Army, at The Cottage that will help meet the daily needs of the homeless.

Bay looks after its homeless

“HOMELESSNESS is not in your genes. It is something that happens to you,” Paul Spooner, general manager of Byron Community Centre, said.

Mr Spooner is excited about the way the community is pitching in to help set up the Byron Care Cottage for the homeless.

Nicknamed 'The Cottage', the Fletcher Street drop-in will open its doors by the end of the month.

There were about 100 homeless people doing it tough on the streets of Byron Bay and the current drop-in - a room at the back of the community centre - just wasn't big enough, Mr Spooner said.

The new premises, which formerly housed a real estate agency and car rental business, will have the capacity to provide the homeless with a shower, drug and alcohol counselling, a library and, most importantly, somewhere safe to store their few belongings.

Gwen Gould, who runs the homeless breakfast every Wednesday, asked people on the street what they needed most. They said they wanted a safe place to store stuff because things got ripped off living on the streets. They also wanted somewhere to have a cup of tea, she said.

The Cottage can provide this and will be operated by staff from St Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army, and co-ordinated by Major Darren Elsley.

The community centre has taken out a two-year lease on the property and the $40,000 annual rent will be met by $25,000 from Byron Shire Council and $15,000 jointly from the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul.

To get the project up and running $10,000 from the Federally-funded Jobs Fund has assisted in renovating the cottage. “Teams of volunteers have put their hands up,” Mr Spooner said.

The number of calls Mr Spooner received from people donating street swags, food and money had been heart- ening, he said.

The Cottage will operate 10am to 4pm each weekday. If you can help call 6685 6807.



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