More tents are needed for Coffs Harbour’s homeless. Anna Scott, manager of Pete's Place looking at the tents currently near the Coffs Harbour Neighbourhood Centre. Photo: Trevor Veale
More tents are needed for Coffs Harbour’s homeless. Anna Scott, manager of Pete's Place looking at the tents currently near the Coffs Harbour Neighbourhood Centre. Photo: Trevor Veale

Covid-19 pushing homeless further to the fringes

Already on the outer, Covid-19 is pushing the homeless community further to the fringes of society.

Pete's Place is a drop-in centre for homeless people in Coffs Harbour, providing essential personal services such as bathroom and laundry facilities and food.

It is a purpose-built extension to the Coffs Harbour Neighbourhood Centre in Earl St, managed through the St Vincent de Paul Society. It is named after Peter Grealy, a benefactor of the St Vincent de Paul Society.

Manager Anna Scott says she is determined to keep Pete's Place open in the face of the Covid-19 crisis.

"They are already vulnerable in the community and even more so now - they're scared and confused and already feel on outer of our community," Anna said.

"We have had a lot of support from Coffs Harbour people dropping off donations and supplies. The community has come to our aid in such a big way as they know how vulnerable and isolated they must feel."

She says the main aim of the service at the moment is to keep homeless people feeling calm and supported.

"So they still have access to things like health and support services that may be closed due to the virus."

They have experienced a spike in demand for their service with more families needing support.

"We are seeing a lot of new faces. More families, not because they're homeless but they're feeling financial and food insecurity - they're confused and lost.

"We are also seeing a lot more casual workers and people stuck here because of border restrictions as well."

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One of the services on offer at Pete's Place is a laundry and shower facility which now operates on a much stricter level.

"The rules were very subtle but now they have to be really obvious and clear - people must wait outside for others to finish, that kind of thing.

"The new restrictions are challenging for people. We are still meeting a need, we just have to be sensible and innovative in the way we do it."

She points out that many homeless people do not have access to mainstream media to hear messages about the importance of hygiene and social distancing.

"We try to talk to them about the importance of all of those things, even when they're living in extreme situations. They're really at risk if they catch it."

Anna says the most urgent need is for cleaning supplies, sleeping bags, tents and food.

The service is currently open from 8.30am to 1.30pm Monday to Thursdays and on Friday if needed. Donations can be left at the door at Pete' Place in the community village behind Coles.

If you can help, call Anna on 0438 931 201.