In early 2015 The Byron Cottage Drop In Centre closed down due to lack of funding. This centre was the only place a local person experiencing homelessness could go for a hot shower and a few moments of privacy in Byron Bay.
Since its closure local community service workers from the Byron Community Centre, FSG, The Family Centre and Connecting Home have all been working collaboratively to find a new way to help our most vulnerable community members meet their basic human needs – showers and sanitation.
Together, we’ve performed community consultation with local residents, local people who are experiencing homelessness, and local businesses and community service organisations. We’ve even reached out to organisations in other cities that have addressed this issue, to learn from their experiences.
We have now found a solution, and it has been met with profound gratitude and relief from our first few visitors:
“The first man I told was so relieved. He was living on the streets with all his possessions tucked away in his raggedy old backpack. He told me he was about to get on a bus and travel to Sydney to visit family, but was worried he would bother the other travellers as he hadn’t been able to shower or shave for a couple of weeks. Now he can climb aboard feeling confident and comfortable for the 12 hours bus ride” Bruce Heid, Volunteer Community Services Worker at the Byron Community Centre.
Headed by the Byron Community Centre, The Community Showers project is a simple one: For two hours two days a week the disused Girl Guide Hall in Carlyle St is open for appointment-based showers and haircuts.
“Our visitors are often feeling unclean and self-conscious. They can be feeling a bit rattled and vulnerable. We needed to find a space that reflected the value of the people we were supporting. We wanted our visitors to feel welcomed and worthy of care.” Celeste Harris, Community Services Coordinator at the Byron Community Centre.
Community showers won’t solve homelessness, but it does fill a massive gap in available support for those without a home in our community, and its impact has a flow-on effect many of us may not have considered
“People can’t access jobs and accommodation, or maintain health if they can’t get clean. It’s as simple as that.” Explains Bruce Heid.
Our wider network of frontline community organisations have all chipped in to make this happen. We’ve got outreach workers onsite at the showers and we use the Liberation Larder and BCC homeless breakfasts to make appointments.
This project is testament to the collaborative and inclusive nature of community services in Byron Bay, we have worked together to continue creating meaningful solution-based change in our community.
Images by local community services worker Drew Rogers.