A Google image search of the term ‘homeless’ returns pictures of ageing, overweight men sporting unkempt, dirty beards, often carrying alcohol.
It may be time for Google to update their search results, according to the team at Griffith crisis accommodation provider Barnabas House.
“A lot of people equate homelessness with poverty, but its not always the case… it’s a myth that you’re only homeless because your poor,” according to Pastor Rodney Bortolin, of LifeSource Church, who run Barnabas House.
“We get a wide variety of people here, [including] people who have come from middle class families. They may have lots of their job, or be escaping domestic violence,” Felix Sebastian, site administrator at Barnabas House said.
“There’s also people who just moved to town and can’t find anywhere else to live,” Pastor Rodney Bortolin said.
Hundreds of new employees are expected to move to Griffith over the next 12 months, but there are currently only 86 vacant places to rent, according to the website realestateinvestar.com.
Services like Barnabas House, who provide crisis accommodation of up to three months, are now in hot demand.
“We’re trying to catch those who fall through the safety net,” Pastor Bortolin said, adding that the aim is to help clients into more permanent accommodation within the three month timeframe.
While this a real challenge given the lack of properties available in Griffith, Barnabas House said they’re usually successful in doing so.
Unlike other providers, they accept single men as well as single women and children with families. But they do have one important restriction.
“We are a drug and alcohol free service. We do expect clients to be drug free. We want to protect people who are homeless, but we also want to protect people on our site… around 20 per cent of the people staying here are children,” Mr Sebastian said.
Barnabas House can accommodate up to 70 people, and generally take in clients who are referred through Housing NSW or Linking Communities.
Barnabas Houses are, however, unable to take unaccompanied children 16 years and under.
Deb Longhurst of Linking Communities, said children 12 to 15 are falling though the cracks in the system, as they’re generally too old to be placed in foster families, but too young to access homelessness services.
If you’d like to donate to Barnabas House, you can do so via their website.