When a woman asked a crowd of more than 100 people at a Ballarat’s inaugural Think Tank if they had ever experienced homelessness there was a deafening silence.
She raised her hand.
Slowly, hands shot up across the room.
At least 75 people are sleeping rough in Ballarat every night.
That’s not counting the 400 people sleeping in crisis accommodation or the 70 families waiting for housing everyday. More than 100 people gathered at Ballarat’s Housey Housey to discuss how to curb homelessness at a Think Tank on Thursday evening.
Ten-year-old Ella Dermunk said her dream to end homelessness was to see the establishment of an outreach house that was open to anybody, every day of the year. Hot meals, clothing, blankets and support would be available to people who were struggling. No questions asked.
“Whenever I see a homelessness person I just want to give them food and something to keep them warm,” Ella said. “All the schools in Ballarat should write to the council and the government asking them to do something. We could all donate things we don’t need to the centre and people wouldn’t feel so lonely.”
UnitingCare chief executive Carolyn Barrie said it was about generating “light-bulb ideas”.
“It doesn’t matter how out there the idea is it’s about starting the discussion,” she said. “Everybody is who is here, is here, because they genuinely want to make a difference.”
While eradicating homelessness completely is no easy feat, Committee for Ballarat chief executive Melanie Robertson said a holistic approach was needed.
“This isn’t a divisive issue, this is an issue where people are united towards the same goal,” she said
Member of the crowd Monica Langford was among a number of people who called for issue of homelessness to be humanised.
“These are real people who need our help,” she said. The forum was the coinage of Leadership Ballarat and Western Region, Committee for Ballarat and UnitingCare Ballarat.