John Callanan cuts the ribbon opening the newly refurbished Fred’s Place laundry room at Tweed Heads while Yvonne Wynen assists and Jason McDonald and Christopher Hughes look on.
John Callanan cuts the ribbon opening the newly refurbished Fred’s Place laundry room at Tweed Heads while Yvonne Wynen assists and Jason McDonald and Christopher Hughes look on. Scott Powick

Extra services for homeless drop-in centre

A QUEUE of people waiting outside homeless drop-in centre Fred’s Place this morning was testament to the demand for its services.

The Tweed Heads centre had been closed for eight days, as workers laboured to complete renovations which will see better services for those sleeping rough.

Fred’s Place today unveiled a new laundry room, featuring three industrial washing machines and driers, along with a new community space which can be used by drop-in medical professionals, psychologists, legal and other support workers.

The renovations were made possible by $30,000 from the Northern Rivers Community Foundation’s major 2015 grant and a NSW Government Community Building Partnership grant in 2014.

Fred’s Place service manager Jason McDonald welcomed the additions, which will leave the centre better equipped to handle an ever increasing demand.

While Fred’s Place has helped to house hundreds of people, Mr McDonald said new clients were presenting to Fred’s Place each day.

“We’re really excited about being open again,” he said.

He said a new dedicated interview room would provide a private space for those in need to access crucial services.

“It gives us more freedom and flexibility,” he said.

St Vincent De Paul Lismore diocese president Yvonne Wynen said the renovations would help the service to continue to meet an ever-growing demand.

“In the last financial year, Fred’s Place assisted over 1500 people, they found housing for 149 people, helped 55 people relocate back to family and friends, provided temporary accommodation to 121 people and made 1256 referrals to other crucial services,” Ms Wynen said.

“At a time when homelessness is so prevalent in our local community, providing prevention and intervention support to people who are experiencing or are at risk of homelessness is now more important than ever.

“As the recipient of the Northern Rivers Community Foundation’s major grant in 2015 as well as a generous grant from the Community Building Partnership program in 2014, Fred’s Place has been able to expand and enhance its facilities to help meet the ever-increasing demand for homeless support services in the Tweed region.”

With 5000 loads of washing done at the centre each year, Ms Wynen said the new industrial machines would help to lighten the load.

Northern Rivers Community Foundation chair John Callanan said his group was proud to have contributed $30,000 towards the equipment.

“The Northern Rivers... is a fantastic place to live, but it’s not paradise for everyone,” Mr Callanan said.

“There are so many people in need. The core of our business is supporting community organisations that support those in need.

“I can see that the industrial quality (of machines) will serve the needs of this community for a long time and that’s key.”

Tweed MP Geoff Provest said the issue of homelessness was “very significant” in the Tweed.

Mr Provest, who last year took part in the Fred’s Place Community Sleepout to raise funds for its services, said he’d worked closely with St Vincent De Paul to better understand the issue.

He said every Thursday when Parliament was sitting, he volunteered to help the homeless in Sydney.

“You can’t form those views (of the issue) by sitting in an office having a coffee... you’ve got to get out on the street,” he said.

He made special mention of the centre’s 30-strong team of volunteers, which is largely made up of university students on community placement.

“Without them, I don’t think St Vincents would be as strong as it is,” he said.



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