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Safe Space living up to its name in Burnie

Safe Space living up to its name in Burnie

Safe Space living up to its name in Burnie

28 July 2021

(From left) Nathan Hughes (Burnie Safe Space Coordinator), MP Roger Jaensch, Jed Donoghue (The Salvation Army State Manager for Homelessness and Housing in Tasmania), and Major Kevin Lumb (Area Officer) celebrating the opening of the Burnie Safe Space a year ago. As of July 2021, 128 individuals have stayed overnight at the Burnie Safe Space over the course of that year, and 43 have since signed leases. Photo courtesy Brodie Weeding/The Advocate.

By Jessica Morris

When the 24/7 Burnie Safe Space opened a year ago, it filled a gap for rough sleepers and people at risk of homelessness in Tasmania’s north-west. Based on the successful model run by The Salvation Army Homelessness Stream and Hobart City Mission in Hobart, the Tasmanian Government backed the pilot program in Burnie for six months through its $4.3 million COVID-19 response to homelessness throughout the state.

A client wrote this heart-warming letter to the team at 24/7 Burnie Safe Space in March this year, thanking them for truly giving her a ‘safe place’.

Now, 12 months in, with continued funding from the state government, the Safe Space is proving more vital than ever. It is filled every night and has supported 128 individuals with 3569 cumulative night stays, case work and referrals.

“Safe Space is really living up to its title. I felt welcome and feel safe,” shared one client in a letter earlier this year. “After the emotional, overwhelming, heartbreaking event that I’ve experienced, to end up here is something that I’ll hold to myself. Knowing that help/support is out there, I’ll never be scared, ever again, to ask for help.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by many clients at the 24/7 Burnie Safe Space. This service functions as a shelter by day and night, giving up to 18 people – and their pets – a safe space to sleep at night and stay throughout the day to receive ongoing support.

This has been monumental for people doing it tough. Not only are people able to stay warm, wash and have a bed for a night, but they can access supports for mental health issues, alcohol and other drugs (AOD) issues, housing access and legal support.

“What we’ve seen is that rental prices have massively increased over the last 12 months, and the price of actually buying a home has increased also. It means, now, there is less supply, but the demand is very, very high,” explains Coordinator and Team Leader Nathan Hughes.

“In the last three months, in particular, we’re seeing a lot of people new to homelessness who have not experienced that due to housing shortages, and I don’t really see that slowing down anytime soon.”

The Burnie Safe Space is also open to clients with friendly pets – and ‘Team Leader’ Fred (pictured) is the first to welcome every furry friend into the building!

Perhaps it is best to call the clients at the 24/7 Burnie Safe Space ‘community members’ – after all, some people [who have found permanent housing] come back to visit their friends during the day, such is the nature of the Safe Space. People of all ages utilise the service, but men and women in their 30s are the most frequent, staying on average 14 nights a month. That’s nearly a week longer than when the space opened.

While various issues lead to homelessness, Nathan says the most common are family issues, relationship breakdowns and domestic violence, which account for 66 per cent of all guests. “It’s tough. What we try to focus on is the people that we have today. All we can do is help the people that we have right now,” he says. “It has also been really rewarding. As of the first of July 2021, out of the 128 individuals that have stayed in Burnie Safe Space overnight this year, 43 people have actually signed leases.”

And it’s worth noting that even those who have not signed leases – be it in government housing or private rentals – are still provided with care.

Assertive Outreach Worker Kent Stone has been working with the 24/7 Burnie Safe Space since March, enhancing relationships with the community, and following up on clients who have lost contact with the service. Photo courtesy Brodie Weeding/The Advocate.

The 24/7 Burnie Safe Space operates at capacity most days. It is connected with other services on Tasmania’s Northwest Coast to provide and receive referrals and give people the best chance to thrive. It also employed an Assertive Outreach Worker in March, allowing them to increase community relationships with everyone from politicians to other services. This worker will focus on following up with clients who have lost contact with the Burnie Safe Space community.

“Our case workers deserve all the credit. It’s a tough job. It is really rewarding when somebody enters our service, and we get to see that positive change in them,” says Nathan.

The Burnie Corps is also on hand to give clients extra support when needed, a privilege that Corps Officer Captain Belinda Cassie relishes.

“There have been a few times the Safe Space has reached out because one of their guests has asked specifically about pastoral support. I’ve been able to sit [with them]. I can’t solve any problems – but I can remind people how valued they are by Jesus, how loved they are. And how their home status or past doesn’t change that fact,” says Belinda.

As Tasmanians continue to battle through the cold months of winter, it is comforting to know that the 24/7 Burnie Safe Space team is working around the clock to give people more than a warm bed – they are giving them a future.

To stay up to date with 24/7 Burnie Safe Space, follow them on Facebook here.



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