SLEEPING inside a car in the chilly Gold Coast winter may not have to be the only option for some when a dedicated centre tackling homelessness opens as early as April.
The St Vincent de Paul Society is planning to open a homelessness prevention centre, called the Cornerstone Centre, to stop “the flow of people entering homelessness” on the Gold Coast.
It will be an extension of a Cornerstone Program established by the Catholic charity in 2014 to target the increasing problem of homelessness in the city.
Spurred by news of a homeless man sleeping at a church in the Surfers Paradise parish, members of several Vinnies conferences on the Gold Coast banded together to build an early-prevention centre.
Diocesan president Noel Sweeney said the society had already made an offer on a property in Southport.
Vinnies has also employed a social worker to manage the program in the centre and is hoping to employ a second when it opens.
Mr Sweeney said the early-prevention model would focus on assisting at-risk individuals by giving them access to long-term housing and support to keep their tenancies.
“The overwhelming feedback has been that we need to tackle the issues that result in homelessness by stopping the flow of people entering homelessness,” Mr Sweeney said.
“It has been found that it is easier to help those ‘at risk’ before they become homeless rather than trying to assist them once they have become homeless.”
Mr Sweeney said a dedicated centre would support people at risk of living on the streets and those who were already doing it tough.
“It is essential that we continue to provide on-going support to those that we have assisted to maintain their tenancies to ensure that they don’t lapse back into habits that put them ‘at risk’ in the first place,” he said.
“Cornerstone will also assist those who are homeless and living in cars or living rough.”
Mr Sweeney said the society hoped to start its services on April 3.
“We may not have a centre by then but we can still commence using current office space,” he said.
Funds for the centre will be taken from the annual CEO Sleepout, a Vinnies-run campaign that raises money for the society’s grassroots homelessness programs, including Cornerstone.
“None of this would be possible without the great support of people on the Gold Coast particularly the CEOs,” Mr Sweeney said.