Excellence in Ending Homelessness - Adults Nominee
Program - Coast Community Centre at Coast Shelter
Please give your reasons for nominating this program.
The Coast Community Centre focuses on intervening early and providing a wide range of services to assist people before they become homeless. It has evolved into a one-stop shop where guests can access a comprehensive range of services. The Centre receives no government funding, however with the help of an army of 250 volunteers the Centre to date has fed over 700,000 people in need.
To add to our array of services we have qualified counsellors and Chaplaincy services. This support is of great benefit to many of our clients who sometimes just need someone, with time available, who they can talk to and listen to their problems.
The list of services offered is extensive, ranging from professional consultations to a whole host of practical supports, help and assistance. There is also the opportunity to learn new skills with the introduction of a number of weekly class activities which include sewing, cooking and budgeting.
Coast Shelter has fostered a solid relationship with Newcastle University and Hunter TAFE. In 2012 two Community Development Diploma TAFE students embarked on a research project entitled "Putting a dollar value on the Coast Community Centre". They concluded it was difficult to place a dollar value on the Centre where there can be any number of variables which adds to the increasing complication of valuing the Centre. However, in 2012 the total yearly dollar value they ascertained was in excess of $216,880.22.
Again in 2013 two Social Work Students undertook a Project "Mental Health and Homelessness on the Central Coast" where they concluded when they researched the Prevalence of mental illness in homelessness population
No Central Coast specific data and Significant variation
of data across studies.
With dwindling supplies of food donations from the supermaarkets, the continue absence of government funding and the need to provide more than 50,000 free meals each year, we continue to actively seek opportunities in the food sector and work closely with organisations such as Foodbank and Oz Harvest.
What outcomes were delivered as a result of this program?
The Community Centre provides free meals and support services to help homeless, vulnerable, financially disadvantaged and socially isolated community members. It is not currently funded by the government.
Our Organisation is a ‘first to know’ agency renowned for achieving outstanding results for marginalised and vulnerable individuals and families.
In the last year 941 clients were assisted and in the majority of cases their immediate needs were met with the available resources on site. Last year staff provided the following support to clients:
• 643 tenancies sustained
• 756 advice and information
• 436 client advocacy
• 50,861 free meals were provided
• 1,507 food hampers were provided to those doing it tough.
• 1,751 clients had access to shower and laundry facilities
• 1,216 other basic assistance e.g. electricity vouchers and No Interest Loans
• 13 Work and Development Orders
• 362 referred to emergency accommodation
• 502 people were assisted with paying their medical prescriptions.
Clients are also assisted with podiatry and haircuts.
By building on this solid foundation of service delivery, we create an innovative, integrated and responsive Service Model. Dependable and professional staff with proactive outreach capabilities and links to brokerage funding, ensure we triumph over the challenges our clients face.
The Coast Shelter vision is ‘Ending Homelessness’. As Chaplain for the fifth year at Coast Shelter, I have had the privilege of seeing how this works from the Community Centre perspective. Ending homelessness is a long process for most clients, it is never a quick fix because of the complexity of needs which may have led clients to homelessness as well as the lack of affordable housing stock available to them. Increasingly, our clients are those who pay their rents but have to struggle with utility bills, food/clothing/medicine costs, transport etc. In trying to meet these needs our Community Centre relies on government agencies, social services, community services and many volunteers. Coast Shelter Community Centre becomes a hub for our clients which provides them with access to many bodies for support, assistance, advocacy and referral. These include:
Free Legal Advice each Monday by Central Coast Community Legal Centre
Doorways 'Housing Connector' each Monday
Centrelink Community Engagement Officer
No Interest Loans (NILS) for people on low incomes to purchase essential household items
Energy Vouchers (EAPA) to help people having difficulty paying gas and/or electricity bills
Assistance to fill prescriptions for clients experiencing financial hardship
Food Hampers made up from donated items
Shower and Laundry Facilities are available each day including the provision of fresh towels, toiletries and laundry powder
Free Podiatry check-ups each month
Free haircuts each month
Free manicures each month
Counselling and Chaplaincy
The Coast Shelter Community Centre is often the first point of contact for our clients when they have been told of our service by friends or agencies. When new clients arrive at our Centre, they usually feel embarrassed and ashamed of their situation for having to ask for help. Many of them have struggled on their own, just coping, until that electricity bill comes in or they get sick and can’t work or their mental health becomes impaired so work and relationships fall apart. Our staff will greet them and listen non-judgementally as they relate their stories and circumstances often through deep pain, sense of helplessness and tears. No matter what has led them to this point the staff members are there to listen, encourage and help as best we can and oftentimes this starts with a welcome smile and a meal here at the Community Centre.
The Community Centre operates within the Coast Shelter family under the management of a dynamic and generous team headed by Charles Boyton as Program Manager with Joanne Christie and Terry Meggs and a train of community volunteers. The Coast Shelter spirit of being client-centred, professional, empathic and non-judgemental is well and truly embodied in this team as a means to ‘Ending Homelessness’.