It's the Giving Season in Byron
Christmas is a time of fun, festivities and food. But for the many people experiencing homelessness in the Byron Shire, Christmas is just another day trying to survive without secure housing.
The Byron Community Centre is at the forefront of the homelessness crisis, providing food, showers and emergency relief to those in need, and working towards the reopening of Byron’s homelessness hub Fletcher Street Cottage.
“We expect to see more people than ever seeking help this holiday season,” says Homelessness Projects Manager Jenny Ryan. “We acknowledge that Christmas can be challenging for people who are sleeping rough and may present compounding issues especially for those people feeling isolated.”
“We understand that this time of year can be extremely triggering for our vulnerable community members,” says Lead Community Worker Ianna Murray.
“Keeping our shower service operational during this period has been a top priority for us this year as we know it’s so much more than the shower itself. It’s not only a basic human need, but also an opportunity for connection and support.”
Working with the community
Given the scale of the homelessness crisis in Byron, it’s easy to feel powerless to help. There are, however, local organisations and businesses who are helping the homeless this Christmas, and are seeking volunteers and donations.
Rough sleepers can access showers, food and laundry during the holiday season, get a hamper and gifts at Liberation Larder on December 23rd, and join in the festivities at Fishhead’s Christmas Lunch on December 25th.
“On Thursday 23rd December, Liberation Larder will be operating as normal offering our breakfast service from 7am and takeaway meals and produce at lunchtime,” says Liberation Larder Committee Member John Morgan.
“We are also handing out special Christmas hampers in portable eskies with ice so the food will last for a few days, especially for those sleeping rough with no access to refrigeration, so that they can enjoy a Christmas meal.”
“We are grateful to everybody who is responding to this need,” says Jenny. “We all need to come together as a community, not only at Christmas but throughout the year, to support those less fortunate and extend the season of giving.”
Showers, Christmas hampers and hope for the holidays
This holiday season, the Byron Community Centre looked to the community to support local families through their Adopt a Family for Christmas campaign, and all of the families have now been adopted.
“We see firsthand the difference these donations of Christmas hampers make to the families, children and young people in the Byron Shire that they are gifted to and it brings joy to all of our hearts,” says Jenny.
Whole local organisations are pulling together to provide Christmas cheer, it has been a difficult year for community services, with COVID lockdowns, the housing crisis in the Byron Shire and increased need for support.
“We have continued to provide meaningful support in engaging and responding to the individual needs of rough sleepers,” adds Jenny.
“Despite the impact of COVID, we have adapted to the challenges that have arisen for service provision during these uncertain times to continue to support those most in need,” says Ianna.
“We are working towards the reopening of Fletcher Street Cottage which has historically been a meaningful place for our community. The Cottage will provide a safe and comfortable space for people, a respite from the challenges of surviving as a rough sleeper.”