PORT Macquarie’s Youth Hub has long been a zone for teens to hang out and gain support for a range of issues.
Now, thanks to St Agnes Parish and the hub’s Community and Outreach Coordinator Mick Gilmour, the homeless have a place to shower, wash their clothes and take steps to better their lives moving forward.
Mick Gilmour at the Youth Hub on new shower facilities
“We identified there were a lot of people in need and at risk in the community, particularly youth and young families, of homelessness,” he explained.
“There are so many young people in our community who don't have the basic essentials, housing and the facilities they need.
“It's not just older people, it's kids ranging from 17 up to whole family units of mum, dad and kids who need to wash clothes and have a shower.
“From there we're able to give them toiletry packs and point them in the right direction so they can get the support they need.
At the moment Mr Gilmour says they average 25 showers and laundry uses per month, having only finished the facilities recently, proving there is a big need for what they’ve built.
Many donations from the community, schools, St Vincent de Paul at Lake Cathie and members of the Parish community have been overwhelming.
Mr Gilmour said not just homelessness but the need for necessities like a shower is a “massive problem” on the Mid North Coast.
“There are so many people who need that little bit of support. We're about providing that support and giving some dignity to these people so they can have basic essentials and add something meaningful to their life,” he said.
“There are lots of reasons why these people are homeless and need help. Times are tough economically. It's unemployment, not being able to make ends meat.
“Kids are at risk for whatever reason and can't be at home, so many are couch surfing. Families are sleeping in their cars, or even on the street.
“The thing is people can see these people every day, but you might not realise it. A lot of them are embarrassed and don't want to put their hand out for help.
“They don't want to be a burden and that's why it's such an issue but people don't seem to realise how much of an issue it is.”
Mr Gilmour explained his late night shifts lead to conversations with people in the early hours of the morning, opening his eyes to the prevalent problem.
“You can get up into the areas around town and speak to them, and a lot of them were professionals or who are kids who simply missed out. They're victims of circumstance,” he said.
“I hope that the Youth Hub can be seen as the first step, providing that first contact and then hopefully point these people towards more specialised help with all the other great agencies around town and the people doing tremendous work.”