By Barry Morris
CATHOLIC parishes should make halls and other buildings available to people who are sleeping rough, a homelessness forum has suggested.
The call to open up church properties is one of a series of proposals put to the forum, organised by Catholic Social Services Victoria, in Melbourne on 8 June (“Catholics call for homeless help” The News 4/6/19).
More than 50 delegates from Melbourne parishes, including the Mornington Peninsula, attended the forum to discuss problems surrounding homelessness.
The suggested strategy started with personal action and covered initiatives that parishes, schools, the archdiocese and governments should set in place.
The bishops were also called on to issue regular statements for parishes, social media and the press to maintain pressure on the issue.
CSS director Denis Fitzgerald said that while the state government had committed to building an extra 1000 housing units in the next four years, there were 40,000 people needing social housing on the Office of Housing waiting list. He said 20,000 people were on the priority list.
“The best efforts of all levels of government will not be enough to satisfy the need for a roof over everyone’s head,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
“We are all called to action.”
David Moloney told the forum how residents had formed the Seaford Housing Action Coalition (SHAC) to save a beach cabin park for residents who otherwise would have been out on the street. The cabin park at Seaford was tagged for redevelopment as a car park.
He said SHAC also provided meals for rough sleepers, was lobbying for better rooming house standards in the Frankston area and was liaising with Frankston Council for an alternative cabin park site for people at risk of homelessness.
The forum suggested that individuals should find out the extent of homelessness in their area and what was being done about it.
They should then volunteer their time and labour at shelters or kitchens, advocate for more funds and contact their local MP seeking support for the homeless.
The forum called on parishes to organise to provide food, meals and friendship for the homeless in the community.
They could also set aside, build, redevelop or rent a property for short-term use by women and children fleeing violence.
The forum called on Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli to sponsor a specific project to improve the outlook of the homeless and to invite parishes to get behind it in co-operation with government, other organisations and the community.
The archdiocese should also provide resource materials, people and information to help parishes engage with the homeless.