EACH night on the Gold Coast 1400 people are homeless.
“The need is massive,” executive officer of the St Vincent de Paul Society’s South Coast diocesan council in Queensland Shane Klintworth said.
“It’s a mixture of people who are couch surfing, living in overcrowded accommodation, or they may well be in a refuge or they could be sleeping rough.”
Recent data shows that one in six Gold Coast households are experiencing housing stress and at risk of homelessness.
To address the problem Vinnies has launched a new, carefully targetted program called Cornerstone.
Case workers will concentrate on helping families and individuals who are disadvantaged, vulnerable or at risk.
The program will be run out of a newly-opened Southport centre at 11 Hicks Street, and will provide counselling, social work, referral and other support co-ordination services.
Southport’s Guardian Angels associate pastor Fr Huong Van Nguyen blessed each room in the new Cornerstone centre during a dedication ceremony on April 20.
“The whole intent is as an early intervention and prevention program – stopping people falling into homelessness,” Mr Klintworth said.
“So when people might be experiencing domestic and family violence, housing issues or financial issues that place pressure on their lives, there is somewhere to turn.
“They also might require some advocacy, perhaps with their landlords in negotiating payment of their rent, or with members of the society who might be able to provide material or financial assistance to help the family through whatever their crisis might be.
“Through our fellow Vincentians or referred on by another service provider, Cornerstone will provide a case-managed response to their requests for support.”
Southport and Broadbeach are homelessness hotspots where a number of Gold Coasters are sleeping rough.
Mr Klintworth said the Coast did not offer a lot of affordable accommodation, making it difficult for the vulnerable to secure stable and long-term places to stay.
There are long-term plans to provide crisis accommodation by expanding the Cornerstone site.
Funds for the Cornerstone project were raised during last year’s St Vincent de Paul Society CEO Sleepout.
“The corporate community on the Gold Coast really got behind us and helped us raise $515,000, so that money, combined with previously raised funds, was enough for us to purchase that property,” Mr Klintworth said.
He said some of the profits from Vinnies’ 21 stores on the Gold Coast would go to fund the Cornerstone centre as one of a range of services.
“We look at homelessness as the end-state of a lot of other issues. It can be drug use or alcohol use where there is an addiction, relationship and family breakdown – all of those causative factors usually result in someone becoming homeless,” Mr Klintworth said.