The Hills mayor seeks support for the homeless

Hard sleep: The Hills mayor Michelle Byrne pretends to sleep rough, supporting a winter farm sleepout in August.Picture: Gene Ramirez

Hard sleep: The Hills mayor Michelle Byrne pretends to sleep rough, supporting a winter farm sleepout in August.Picture: Gene Ramirez

The Hills mayor Michelle Byrne has signed up to experience homelessness for a night this winter and she wants your company at the Mayor's Winter Sleepout.

The 2006 census counted 181 homeless people in The Hills and 3274 in western Sydney which takes in eight local government areas, excluding Hornsby where there were 382 homeless households in 2008.

READ MORE: Click here to read about women's crisis accommodation in The Hills.

"Many residents are surprised to know we do indeed have a problem with homelessness in The Sydney Hills," Cr Byrne said.

Her sleepout will help the Community Foundation of North Western Sydney's Bridging the Gap programs, including crisis accommodation for homeless families and youth, sport/recreation help and emergency equipment for those in need.

Foundation president Gailsusan Clarke said women and children seeking crisis accommodation were most in need. "There are a lot of women and children who need accommodation as a result of domestic violence," she said.

The foundation was formed in 2007 to address increasing disadvantage in the local government areas of Baulkham Hills, Blacktown, Hawkesbury, Hornsby and Parramatta. It's a subsidiary of The Hills Community Aid and Information Service.

"At the moment we're primarily government-funded so for the mayor to throw her support behind us is really beneficial," said HCA executive officer Ben Jackson.

Bridging the Gap mainly runs in The Hills but they were looking to expand it to the Blacktown and Hawkesbury and emergency relief for bills was also only provided in The Hills.

"We subsidise part of the bill in vouchers the utility companies provide to us," Mr Jackson said.

The service's no-interest loan scheme can be accessed by residents in the areas they serve.

"The number of loans this year has increased by 25 per cent from 199 last financial year to over 250 this year. Of those 60 per cent would have come from The Hills," he said.

"The scheme allows anyone on government payment to access $1200 interest-free for emergencies, such as when a fridge breaks down.

"Our sport and recreation assistance may allow a child to go to school camp — it provides a one-off payment of up to $350 per child. We run this in The Hills, Blacktown and the Hawkesbury."

■ The Mayor’s Winter Sleepout is at Bella Vista Farm Park on Saturday, August 23. Details: http://thehills.nsw.gov.au

Types of homelessness

■ Improvised dwellings: Sheds, tents, humpies, derelict buildings and people sleeping rough in parks, cars and public places.

■ Friends: People staying with friends and relatives on a temporary basis, sometimes called couch surfers.

■ Boarding houses: Single-room accommodation without a private bathroom or kitchen or security of tenure.

■ SAAP: Services funded under the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program, including emergency shelters, hostels and refuges.

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