Major Darren Elsley and community centre director Paul Spooner outside the proposed ‘care cottage’ for the homeless in Byron Bay.
Major Darren Elsley and community centre director Paul Spooner outside the proposed ‘care cottage’ for the homeless in Byron Bay. Kate O’Neill

Prime Byron site to house the homeless

BYRON BAY'S homeless will soon be able to access a host of new services from a Fletcher Street cottage.

The council-owned building, which until recently housed a car rental business, is about to be turned into a drop-in centre with facilities including showers, laundry and lockers for homeless people, along with support services like counselling.

Byron Bay Community Centre director Paul Spooner and The Salvation Army's Major Darren Elsley are behind the new centre, having successfully lobbied Byron Shire Council to lease it to them earlier this year.

Mr Spooner said the community centre had recently seen a 40 per cent increase in demand for relief services and a new centre would help meet the growing need.

The Salvation Army will run the centre in partnership with the community centre and St Vincent de Paul.

“We want to create a warm, friendly environment where people can access essential things like showers. Things that are basic human rights,” he said.

Other services will include needs-based group workshops like anger management, details of housing availability, and health advice.

It is hoped a GP may eventually be available one half-day a week.

Mr Spooner said the aim was to help restore people's dignity and get them back on their feet.

“Homelessness isn't in your genes. It happens because of complex issues in people's lives.

“The centre is designed to help get people back on their feet and become more independent again,” he said.

Byron Shire Council has agreed to subsidise the rent on the building in a prime CBD location.

A DA to change the use of the building was lodged with council this week and the process should be completed in four weeks.

The next step will be to fit out the cottage, which is currently set up as office space. Anyone who wants to help or make a donation should contact the Byron Bay Community Centre.



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