BaptistCare has signed a pledge to end the worsening problem of homelessness in the Hunter region.

Rob Ellis, BaptistCare General Manager for HopeStreet Community Services said signing the pledge is another step for the organisation, which has been active in the Hunter region for decades, playing its part in taking action to reduce homelessness.

“Our BaptistCare HopeStreet Community Centres in Mayfield, Windale and Wallsend are supporting people who are struggling with homelessness or at risk of homelessness, as well with addiction, mental health and legal issues, and diminished employment opportunities,” he said.

The latest 2016 Census figures, released by the ABS in March, show homelessness rates are on the rise, up 12% in the Hunter since the last Census. 

“We see that homelessness changes a person’s entire wellbeing.  There is isolation and extreme social exclusion. There is a higher risk of early death, particularly in Winter, and a strong likelihood of being exposed to violence,” he said.

“HopeStreet in the Hunter is about getting to know the people we meet by name, as an individual, taking the time to hear their story and to work with them to meet their needs.” 

“This might be food support – a hot and nutritional meal each day, referrals and support for housing needs, or being a trusted place in vulnerable communities for people to drop in and find hope and friendship.”

In addition to its HopeStreet Community Centres, BaptistCare also runs a street van in Newcastle’s inner city on most weekends. The team provides free meals, tea and coffee, cold drinks, clothing, blankets and referral services.  

“Like the other organisations who are part of this pledge, we acknowledge that homelessness is one of Australia’s most urgent and complex social issues,” said Mr Ellis.

Chair of the Network, Professor David Adamson from Compass Housing, congratulated BaptistCare for joining the global movement to end homelessness. Professor Adamson said homelessness has become the clearest expression of inequality and poverty in Australia. He said eradicating poverty cannot be achieved without eradicating homelessness.

“Homelessness in the Hunter is not an intractable problem – it can be solved if the whole community is supportive,” Prof Adamson said.

“Every business, agency and resident, has a stake in preventing homelessness and supporting people who experience homelessness,” he said.

He said the pledge has been used effectively in other cities overseas including in Canada, the USA, Wales and Scotland.

The pledge is an initiative of the region’s Big Ideas Homelessness Network. Organisations or local residents wishing to sign the Pledge should visit https://bigideashomelessnessnetwork.org/the-pledge

The Newcastle and Hunter Big Ideas Homelessness Network is a collaborative steering group made up of representatives from the community and agencies who have an interest in ending homelessness. It is facilitated by Compass Housing and meet quarterly to share information, ideas and resources.

For over 34 years, BaptistCare HopeStreet has been putting faith into action, and has been a trusted place in some of the most vulnerable communities, offering hope to people living with disadvantage and distress.