What is Connecting the Hunter Program?
Connecting the Hunter is an extension of the successful Hunter Homeless Connect Day event and provides a dignified and practical way for businesses in the community to offer goods and services to people experiencing homelessness, all year round.
Many businesses, individuals and organisations in the community want to help people experiencing homelessness, but don't know how to reach out. Many people experiencing homelessness feel embarrassed and ashamed to ask for food or basic services. Connecting the Hunter provides an opportunity for indivisuals, small businesses and larger corporate organisations in the community to be active participants in responding to homelessness in the Newcastle and Hunter region.
Why Do we Need This?
We can all be just a few pays away from homelessness. Increasingly homelessness is becoming the reality for people who may have been managing well, but are thrown off course by a relationship breakup, job loss, or death of a loved one.
The latest 2016 census, the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) counted 1,750 people experiencing homelessness in the Hunter region. This was an increase of about 12 per cent on the 2011 figure. The latest statistics reveal that only 7% of people experiencing homelessness have mental health and substance abuse issues and only 6% are sleeping rough. Many (31%) are escaping domestic violence, housing stress (28%), unemployment and financial (22%) and transitioning from custody (12%). A survey conducted by Hunter TAFE students at the 2019 Hunter Homeless Connect Day event revealed that for the the third year in a row, women outnumbered men among those seeking assistance.
In 2019, COVID-19 has impacted significantly. As more people have found themselves out of work, homeless support services are reporting a large increase in demand for their services. Small businesses are also feeling the effects of an economic recession.
This project looks at the big picture and connects the dots. It not only supports vulnerable people, but also small businesses who are doing it tough.
How Does it Work?
- SUPPORT - A donation tap point is set up onsite at your organisation for one month, with staff encouraged to ‘pay it forward’ funds to drive this initiative.
- CONNECT - Hunter Homeless Connect will use the donated funds to purchase vouchers from local businesses for goods and services such as fresh fruit and vegetable boxes, haircuts, coffee and cafe meals. These vouchers will be distributed to people experiencing, or at risk of homelessness via a referral system through specialist homeless service providers.
- EDUCATE - Staff are invited to participate in a 30 minute educational presentation on the real issues associated with homelessness in our own community. Our aim is to break down the stigma and common misconceptions.
- Do you want to be part of a 'community movement' in response to homelessness?
- Are you open to providing practical goods and services to people in need?
If you would like to become a partner business and open your doors to people in need, we would love to hear from you.
To register to become a member of the Connecting the Hunter program, complete the Application Form online here.
Who's On Board?
The pilot program was initially supported by the Community Sector Banking's 2018 Social Investments Grant Program and more recently in 2020, the Sisters of Mercy have provided funding to enable us to continue this work.
For more information on the Connecting the Hunter program, email us here.