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www.mn.catholic.org.au Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
On his Graceland album, Paul Simon sang, "And we are homeless, homeless, Moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake... Somebody cry why,
why, why?" The rhythms are evocative for those of us used to seeing Africans of various nations on our streets and the stories they tell are
heartbreaking. However, homelessness has a local face too, and a group of concerned Maitland citizens, under the auspices of St Vincent de
Paul Lower Hunter, has taken steps to address the situation.
PAM TIERNEY OF Maitland is a wife,
a mother of six and grandmother of
six. She taught in primary schools,
then worked as a District Officer helping
abused children and their parents with
the Department of Community Services.
Her last position was as CEO of Lifeline
Newcastle and Hunter. If she was
completing a form she might tick the
'Retired' box but nothing could be further
from the truth. Pam is a tireless member of
the East Maitland Conference of St Vincent
de Paul (SVDP) as well as a member of
other community groups.
The former Regional Chairperson of SVDP,
John Hakes, invited Pam to be the Social
Justice Representative for the Lower Hunter.
Instead, Pam formed a Social Justice Group
with eight members. The group decided
its first task would be to survey the needs
of the homeless in the Maitland area.
Ten local organisations were consulted,
ranging from Carrie's Place (women's
refuge) and the Coachstop Caravan Park
to the Maitland Neighbourhood Centre
and CatholicCare's Maitland Youth Crisis
Centre. There was an interview with
representatives of the Department of
Housing, and a conversation with the State
Minister for Maitland, Robyn Parker MP.
The Committee's investigation found that
not only is the number of people needing
low cost housing or short term crisis
accommodation increasing, but there is a
severe shortage of such accommodation.
The Regional Homelessness Action Plan
2010-2014 identified four priorities:
Improving access to affordable housing
and responding to different needs
Providing a connected system of
Building the evidence base with data
collection and evaluation.
Not all can be helped by any one
organisation or plan, but the East Maitland
Conference of SVDP has been granted
significant funding by SVDP Central
Council for a multi-purpose complex
with a 'one stop shop' approach for
clients and facilities for SVDP volunteers.
Accommodation for tenants with
various needs is planned. It is hoped a
Management Committee will co-ordinate
the activities of the Centre and liaise with
referring agencies. John Hakes
is heading the committee that
oversees the project.
A further activity of the
Social Justice Group was to
ask Robert Moore, another
member of the group and a
teacher at St Mary's Campus,
to initiate a speaking program
to raise awareness of social justice
issues among the general public. The
first outcome was a Cocktail Function
at the Maitland Art Gallery in July. The
guest speaker was Federal Senator Marise
Payne, Shadow Minister for Indigenous
Development & Employment, Housing and
COAG. Senator Payne said, "There is a new
face of homelessness and it's a terrifying
face." All proceeds supported 'William's
Place' and before leaving, Senator Payne
said, "Tonight I can mark the Maitland
community as a very compassionate
Recently, Pam had a dream. She takes up
While pursuing a project on behalf of SVDP
Social Justice Committee to establish the
extent and causes of homelessness in the
Lower Hunter, I was also taking my turn
in the 'Vinnies' home visitation schedule,
visiting ten or more households a day,
including a homeless person. It was like
a super-dunk in sorrow. I went to sleep
one night thinking about all the different
groups of homeless people - the mentally
ill, so isolated; the single parents sleeping
in cars, the young people turning to drugs
and alcohol after they hit the streets.
I knew we couldn't help them all, and
I was wondering, and worrying about,
whom we could help.
That night I had a dream of a young
man who was in the carport of my
home. I don't have a carport, but
dreams don't care about detail like that.
The young man was rolling out his sleeping
bag and he had some sandwiches in his
hand, like the ones you get at garages.
I realised he was bunking down for the night.
I said, 'What's your name?' He smiled and
said, 'William'. From that point on, we just
referred to the project as 'William's Place.'
To know more or to become involved,
please P 4934 3833 or
By TRACEY EDSTEIN
Homeless Persons Week 2012
begins on 6 August.
Did you know that each day nearly
one in every 200 Australians is
homeless, without safe, secure or
Last year, 105,000 Australians
One in every 154 Australians
sought help from a homeless
assistance service and one in
every 39 children aged under 4
slept in a homeless service.
23% of Australia's homeless
are children -- almost one in four
homeless people is under 18.
Of every 42 Australian children
under four, one has experienced
Every day, half the people who
request immediate accommodation
from the homeless service system
are turned away.
Two in every 3 children who need
support are also turned away, as
are almost 80% percent of families.
You may like to visit
the source of these statistics and much
(l-r) Marguerite Tierney, Senator Marise Payne, Pam Tierney and Member for Maitland Robyn Parker.
and it's a
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