Hidden Women of Byron Bay Fundraiser

Shining a light on the issue of women who are homeless in Byron Bay.

About this Event

Join us for an International Women’s Day Lunch supporting our Hidden Women of Byron Bay.

Hosted by Beef & Beach, Byron Bay Chamber of Commerce, and the Byron Community Centre.

Your Ticket includes a Welcome Drink, Canapes, Banquet Lunch, and a donation to the Byron Community Centre for their recently launched women’s program.

Did you know?

The fastest-growing category of people experiencing homelessness is middle-aged and older single women.

Domestic violence, isolation, poor mental health, children leaving the family home and the economic effects of this are key factors. Many of these women are sleeping in their cars, makeshift camps, or in unsuitable and dangerous accommodation.

Together, we are raising funds to help these women through The Byron Community Centre.

The Byron Community Centre has just commenced a program for women to provide wellbeing and support services locally.

Women at risk of homelessness (as well as those already homeless) can have computer and internet access; counselling; therapeutic activities such as gardening and arts and craft; and access to hot showers, hygiene products and pamper days.

Your financial support ensures this program continues effectively (in partnership with other organisations working with women in the Byron shire) to help these women from falling through the gaps.

Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/hidden-women-of-byron-bay-luncheon-international-womens-day-tickets-92594924913

Safe shelter during extreme weather events

The Byron Community Centre (BCC) has provided 11 nights of shelter during severe wet weather in 2020. 

Safe and secure shelter for those sleeping rough

The Sever Wet Weather Shelter project offers a comfortable night sleep for those sleeping rough. There are plenty of hot meals, king-single camp stretchers, sheets and blankets, toilet facilities and a set of agreed house rules to keep everyone safe and secure.

50 people registered for a bed during the past weather event and 45 people ended up staying for at least one night. Some have stayed for 10 nights.

In partnership with the Uniting and Anglican Churches and Liberation Larder, the BCC has been running the Severe Wet Weather Shelter for the past two years. 

“It requires a lot of organisation each night we run it,” says Elyssa Purdie the Homeless Projects Worker at the BCC.  “Confirming security guard services, qualified overnight crisis workers, cleaners, volunteers, food and other consumables, clean laundry, managing keys, monitoring behaviour and of course keeping an eye on the weather on a daily basis takes an enormous amount of time and resource. The weather is sometimes the most stressful element.”

“To keep the shelter running, we need to access ongoing funding or donations from the community.”

There is no recurrent government funding for this project. The project was made possible by small one-off grants secured in 2017 – 2019 from NRCF, Westpac, Harcourts, the Byron Shire Council and from generous donations from Global Ripple op-shop and Cunning Stunts (Wink Wink Nudge Nudge events at Billinudgel). 

The BCC has enough to run another 16 nights of a mixed-gender shelter or 8 nights of shelter where the genders are separate. 

Louise O’Connell, General Manager of the Byron Community Centre says “For the Centre to keep offering the shelter, we will need to access either ongoing funding or donations from the community.”

“As long as we are here, we are alright.”

Simon Warner said about the shelter after staying for 4 nights “I’d be getting pretty wet sleeping on the street. As long as we are here, we are alright. The staff are really good, give us a hot meal and a coffee and a chat in the morning. I think what is missing is a hot shower. I have to wait till Monday for that at the showers.”

BCC Community Programs Manager says “10 of the nights were run concurrently recently and gave us the opportunity to put the policies, procedures and resources of the project to the test.” “We have reviewed and improved operations each night.”

“I hope we can continue to offer this project into the future.”

She adds “The shelter does not suit everyone sleeping rough. To give you an example, we cannot have dogs at the shelter because we don’t have kennels to safely house them; we can’t allow the use of alcohol and drugs in the venue or even allow someone to play music as it may disturb other guests.  Some people just can’t sleep in the same room as others, and some are suspicious of the security guards who are there to ensure everyone’s safety.  On the positive side, we are offering 20 beds more than anyone else in the shire and everyone who has a dry night sleep is exceptionally grateful.  I hope we can continue to offer this project into the future.”

Donate Today

Help us provide shelter during extreme weather events for people sleeping rough in Byron Bay. Please consider donating to this essential project. Click the button below to donate now. We appreciate your support.

Severe Weather Shelter donations

Thank you for donating to the Byron Community Centre.  We appreciate your contribution.
Please note that we use 20% of every donation to help with admin costs. All donations are tax-deductible.

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Donation Total: $1,200.00 One Time

The Wet Weather Shelter

by Sarah Webb

Greetings BCC readers, and welcome to the blog where YOU can see all the good and WONDERFUL things that WE do for the community here at the Byron Community Centre.

In this post, I would like to shine some light on a bright venture functioning in otherwise “over cast” situations, the wet weather shelter project! This sunny venture provides emergency shelter to people in need through severe wet weather.

video by Chris Knowles

Wet Weather Shelter project coordinator Elyssa Purdie mentions that The Wet Weather Shelter is “a project in coordination with two local church halls in town to provide emergency shelter during severe wet weather for the homeless”.

And on Wednesday the 27th of March, we ran this Shelter for the first time as we were expecting severe rainfall!

HOORAY, THE SHELTER WAS A BRILLIANT SUCCESS, in the way that everything ran smoothly and worked brilliantly, but there was one event we didn’t account for – there was no wet weather!

In fact, we are calling this wonderful weather miss, a dry run! Everyone was dry, warm, fed and accounted for and all the policies and procedures run smoothly. Hoorayyy!

Now we are truly ready for our next severe weather event! (when the weather is actually severe!).

If you would like to learn more about our Wet Weather Shelter project please click here.  

Rolling Rough

by guest author Paul Spooner

“How does it feel, how does it feel
To be on your own, with no direction home
Like a complete unknown, just like a rolling stone?”

Bob Dylan, Like a Rolling Stone 

Chris Lacaze was a rolling stone and a rough sleeper.

He was the small guy who rolled his wheelchair around the streets of Byron Bay up until his death on 15th September 2018.

Chris was only 64 years of age and a good bloke.

I first met Chris at Byron Community Centre where he would come to access the disabled facilities.

He always had a smile and a good word to say.

A gentle, caring guy who was down on his luck.

I’d often see Chris setting up a makeshift bedroll in the doorway of the local Vinnies store. A place where he felt safe enough to lay his head down for the night.

Chris would strategically place pieces of cardboard along a guard railing to provide shelter and to establish a haven of warmth away from the cold winter wind and rain.

The last time I spoke to Chris was on my way home from work. He bid me “good night” and I replied, “enjoy the bright evening glow of the moon on Marvell Street”.

More than once I thought about the lack of accommodation options for Chris but I knew that none had really existed for him, especially in this world-renowned tourist town. A town where there are more houses listed on holiday-letting platforms than you can poke a stick at.

On the 7th to the 8th of August this year, Chris was one of the 145 people sleeping rough in Byron Shire. They were counted by volunteers, community workers and council staff for the ‘Snapshot of People Sleeping Rough in the Byron Shire’.


This count had identified that 78% of rough sleepers were male and 22% were female. People were sleeping in improvised tents, cars or with no shelter at all and were found in parks, bus stops, shop fronts, on footpaths and in bushland on the town fringes.

The rate of homelessness in the Byron Shire is twice the national average, while the rate of rough sleepers (measured as a percentage of the homeless) stands at six times the national figure.

A similar street count discovered that there were 278 rough sleepers in Sydney’s CBD.

This shocking revelation revealed that Byron Shire’s rough sleeper population is around 50% of those found on the streets of Central Sydney.

So, what should we be doing about this?

  1. Open emergency shelter and accommodation options in the Byron Shire
  2. Fund health, addiction, mental health and employment services
  3. Establish a local support centre for rough sleepers like the Fletcher Street Cottage
  4. Employ Public Space Liaison Officers to ensure community health and safety

What actions can you take to make this happen?

  1. Contact local candidates wanting to be elected to state and federal parliament
  2. Talk to a Byron Shire Councillor
  3. Donate to existing support programs via the Byron Community Centre or the Mullumbimby Neighbourhood Centre

I also suggest saying “hello” to the people you see on the street to make sure that they are OK.

Human connection costs us nothing, but means everything to those with so little to call their own.

A couple of days after Chris Lacaze died, a small memorial was held at the Homeless Breakfast, at the back of the Byron Community Centre.

People stood in a circle on the Fletcher Street footpath and spoke about how they knew Chris and the beautiful qualities he possessed, how he had touched their lives and all the things that he had taught them about enjoying life while in the face of numerous difficulties. Many rough sleepers were present along with community volunteers including: long-time homeless advocate Gwen Gould, a couple of women from the Sunday Sustainable Bakery who daily gave Chris a pastry or two, and a local Vinnies Store volunteer.

One person who wanted to be there but couldn’t was Tonya Coren, local doctor and friend to the homeless. More than most, she knew of the struggles that Chris had faced as a rough sleeper.

Without people like these, our community would be a much less caring place to live.

Amongst the volunteers and the homeless who gathered to remember Chris, a collection of $125 was raised to buy a plaque in his memory. It will be located on the wall of the community centre at the entrance to the kitchen where the homeless come to be nourished:

Christopher Lacaze


64 years old

Died 15.9.18