Parishioners tackle homelessness

By Laura Briggs

Parishioners from the Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst have put their heads together to tackle the homelessness in communities in Northern Victoria.

About 70 representatives from various communities throughout the Diocese of Sandhurst gathered in Shepparton over the weekend for a homelessness forum.

Throughout the day attendees heard from a number of guest speakers including the national president of Australian Young Christian Workers, Elizabeth Mcfarlane who assisted in facilitating the event.

CatholicCare Sandhurst director Rhonda Lawson said the forum also allowed room for group discussions in which people were encouraged to have their input and ultimately be empowered to see a change.

‘‘It really is a mixture of formal presentation, expert input, local experience and the structure to see us through to what are we going to do, what resources are we going to need and how are we going to make this affective so that we don’t come back next year at the same time thinking this homelessness is so terrible we can’t do anything about it.’’

Ms Lawson said the forum consisted of a three-step focus.

‘‘Elizabeth is helping us work through a process called see, judge, act.’’

She said the process aimed to see attendees assess the issue of homelessness, weigh up solutions and leave equipped with the knowledge and tools to reduce local statistics.

Ms Lawson said she was thrilled to see many people who got on board with the forum and showed their concern.

‘‘We’ve been really pleased with the number of people who have showed interest.’’

‘‘There’s a lot of genuine concern - we’ve found that people are wanting to be engaged and really care about what’s going on in their local community.’’

Ms Lawson said while the homelessness forum was a first of its kind for the Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst, she believed it would be an ongoing focus for the parishioners of the group.