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Keeping vulnerable people safe in Melbourne's city centre

Keeping vulnerable people safe in Melbourne's city centre

Keeping vulnerable people safe in Melbourne's city centre

27 June 2017

Major Brendan Nottle, with Trevor Wulf, one of the volunteers who serves at the Hamodava Cafe which will be opened as a Night Time Safe Space this winter.

By Jessica Morris

The Salvos Project 614 in Melbourne is saving lives by reopening their Night Time Safe Space this winter, according to Major Brendan Nottle, The Salvation Army officer overseeing the initiative.

Located on Bourke Street in Melbourne’s city centre, it welcomes rough sleepers, lonely people and those without accommodation, into a warm environment during the coldest months.

It reopened again last night from 11pm-7am, the result of a $300,000 package from the City of Melbourne. This funding allows doors to remain open for a minimum of 250 nights before the project is reassessed. The funding was part of the City of Melbourne’s $2 million homelessness initiative.

Pilot-tested as a 20-week program in 2016, Major Brendan Nottle says the Night Time Safe Space has made a welcome return.

“When we closed we had people ask when we were going to reopen because they found it to be a place that is safe and warm, but also to get some practical supports,” Major Nottle said.

Last year, between 75 and 85 rough sleepers used the space each night, where they received shelter, food and community. Clients are able to use yoga mats for bedding and also have access to DVDs, board games and details about other Salvo services.

The space closes for cleaning at 7am and is reopened at 9am as the Hamodava Café, which provides 1700 meals a week to the vulnerable over breakfast and lunch.

“First and foremost this helps keep people alive. Sadly last year we had some deaths in the city of people who were sleeping rough, and it gets people in from the cold and it is actually safe,” Major Nottle said.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to create housing outcomes for people. We chat with people about our Magpie Nest Housing Program and look within the system at suitable accommodation for people. It helps break the cycle of homelessness.”

Aside from being a sanctuary for rough sleepers, children and single mothers who have been lost, without transport or fleeing violence, have also been welcomed into the safe space.

“The original intent of the safe space was to give [rough sleepers] somewhere they can go, but in a 24-hour city such as Melbourne, there’s no safe space for the vulnerable,” Major Nottle said.

“Through the pilot we [also] learned that there is a cohort of people who have accommodation and bedding but are just incredibly lonely.”

Run from the historic Melbourne City Temple where General William Booth once preached, the reopening of the Night Time Safe Space is a continuation of the Army’s original mission.

“This may seem like a new idea – opening a space over night, every night of the week, but it’s actually what the Army was doing historically when we first started,” Major Nottle said.

“William Booth saw homeless people sleeping under a bridge in London, turned to his son (Bramwell Booth) and said, ‘Do something’. So it’s actually part of the DNA of The Salvation Army.”

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