St Benedict’s Community Centre has for over 10 years been a place for people to seek assistance. It has come out of the work of local churches to address the needs of people in poverty and disadvantage.
This year it has been 40 years since the Celebration Community (part of the Anglican Church) came to Queanbeyan, which led to a variety of responses to and working with the community around people who were rough sleeping, and/or seeking assistance with addictions. A youth refuge, Mary’s Place was established in this time, which then changed into a single men’s refuge. Also around this time Molonglo Support Services was founded, as well as Queanbeyan Housing Association which has become part of Argyle Community Housing.
Karabar Housing Cooperative is another small charity which was established in 1986 by parishioners of the Queanbeyan Anglican parish in response to the problem of increasing rents in the area. The Cooperative was established under the aegis of a government initiative on land owned by the church which had not been developed up to that time. Most of the funds were raised from private persons within the Queanbeyan Parish. The Cooperative leased the land from the Anglican Church Property Trust and began to construct six dwellings and now has twenty-two spread over several sites.
The charity houses 48 people including 14 children. Tenants include people with disability, and older people as well as employed people with low wages. Rents are concessional and generally equate to around 64% to 75% of market rent, and no more than half of tenant’s income. There is strong demand for the Cooperatives services, most recently older women in straitened circumstances is the cohort represented in the majority of new applications. The charity still operates with only one paid part-time member of staff and six volunteers who comprise the board.
St Benedict’s, Karabar Housing Cooperative and HOME in Queanbeyan are co-located, providing support for homeless and other marginalised groups. Co-location has enabled the sharing of resources and helped to facilitate referrals of tenants to mental health, financial or other support.
As part of National Homelessness Week “Creating a Better Queanbeyan” community forum is an opportunity for the Queanbeyan people to look at dealing with homelessness in the region. As one of the least funded organisations in town, St Benedict’s has seen in an increase in demand for people seeking safe, secure and appropriate accommodation.
A number of organisations have been meeting for many years discussing the concerns and problems of locals who are or at risk of being homeless. This year the group has felt it is time to act rather than talk. We are seeking the input of other members of the community to see what is possible to do now and to build into the next 40 years of making Queanbeyan a great place to live.