Michael Riley, Laure Pons, Jason Kuhne, and Zane Makela, take a break from the stresses of homelessness at the Fletcher Street Cottage in Byron Bay. Already, the Cottage offers breakfast, laundry and shower facilities, but plans are afoot to increase the range of services it offers to people without a place to call their own.
Michael Riley, Laure Pons, Jason Kuhne, and Zane Makela, take a break from the stresses of homelessness at the Fletcher Street Cottage in Byron Bay. Already, the Cottage offers breakfast, laundry and shower facilities, but plans are afoot to increase the range of services it offers to people without a place to call their own. Matt Meir

Cottage for Byron Bay's homeless

IN A town of million-dollar properties, a cottage in the centre of Byron Bay could be the most valuable of the lot.

It certainly is for Byron’s homeless population, who now have somewhere to call their own.

The Fletcher Street Cottage has been open for only a short time, but already it has been embraced by those in need of a hand.

About 30 to 50 people a day have used the facility since it opened just before Easter, be it for a cup of tea or a hot shower.

The Cottage, which is owned by Byron Shire Council, leased by the Byron Community Centre and managed by the Salvation Army, offers coffee and toast every morning, showers and laundry facilities, as well as somewhere to temporarily escape the pressure of living without a roof over their head.

But the best thing about the Cottage could well be that it is a place where Byron’s homeless are accepted.

Michael Riley, who has been homeless for about 15 years, said the cottage was a welcome service for people not only struggling to find somewhere to live in Byron Bay, but who have to deal with the social stigma often attached to homelessness.

“The people here give you a chance,” he said.

“They’ve been really nice and helped me out more than I can thank them.”

Jason Kuhne, who is also homeless, said the Cottage was a supportive environment.

“It’s good to have a place where we can all hang together,” he said. Community Service Centre co-ordinator Katie Thompson said there were plans to increase the range of services the Cottage offers to Byron’s homeless population.

“The exciting part of this is we’re going to be expanding to have many different programs, services and groups utilising the Cottage,” she said.

Ms Thompson said Aboriginal health, mental health, and drug and alcohol recovery services would soon all feature on a weekly basis.

Given the demand for the Cottage’s services, Ms Thompson said the popular estimate that Byron’s homeless population is 100 could be an underestimation.

“It hard to know what the figure is,” she said.

“But based on the amount that comes in here I think it’s probably a lot more than that.”

Ms Thompson said it was a combination of high housing costs in Byron Bay, as well as unemployment often caused by mental or physical illness that was the cause of most homelessness in Byron Bay.



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