Business people on Board to connect people experiencing homelessness

Business people on Board to connect people experiencing homelessness

Leaders in business, government, and the not for profit sector are again coming together to help Hunter people out of homelessness following the election of Hunter Homeless Connect’s (HHC) 2022 Board.

Michelle Faithfull, from Compass Housing, is the new Chair. The Chair for the past four years, Jenn O’Sullivan from Path2Change, moves to Vice Chair.

Joining the Board for the first time are Gary Parsisson from REACH Homeless Services, Leanne Poole from Wesley Mission, Jessica Barry from Baptist World Aid, and Louise Maher from Hunter Valley Events.

With support from Compass Housing since 2017, Michelle has served as the coordinator of the annual Hunter Homeless Connect Day and its Community Directory and will continue to do so.

She said it is an honour to be elected chair and continue the great work done by Jenn.

“I am passionate about ending homelessness which is a growing problem in our region,” Michelle said.

“Hunter Homeless Connect is a unique volunteer run organisation that connects people in need with vital services and offers support and advocacy for local service providers.

“Service providers struggle with limited resources so by working together we can make the most of those limited resources.

“Home matters, help matters, and hope matters, and the Board will continue to build an inclusive Hunter community with zero judgement.”

Michelle said planning is underway to hold a Hunter Homeless Connect Day in 2022 after a gap of two years because of COVID-19. The last event saw 120 service providers come together to support more than 1,000 guests.

During that gap, HHC took its community directory online and expanded distribution of its printed version. A mobile app version of the directory was created in late 2021.

HHC is seeking business participants and funding for its continuing Connecting the Hunter program.

The pay it forward scheme distributes food and haircut vouchers to people experiencing homelessness via local services. Twenty local businesses are currently supporting the scheme, but Michelle says more are needed to meet demand.

“There are many ways businesses and individuals can help us in our mission to connect vulnerable people in our community with vital services and support.”

More than 116,000 people were experiencing homelessness in Australia on the 2016 Census night but Michelle said COVID-19 impacts, domestic violence, as well as increased property prices and rents means the figures for the Hunter and Australia have likely increased.

“We also need to dispel myths about homelessness too and highlight its hidden nature. For example, approximately 7 per cent of people experiencing homelessness are sleeping rough, many more are couch surfing, or in refuges, boarding houses and emergency accommodation.”

The 2022 Board is as follows:

  • Chair – Michelle Faithfull (Events & Community Partnerships Manager, Compass Housing)
  • Vice Chair – Jennifer O’Sullivan (CEO Path2Change)
  • Treasurer – Nikki Ashworth (Financial Controller, Port of Newcastle)
  • Secretary – Leanne Poole (Coordinator, Wesley Mission, Newcastle Community Hub)
  • General members – Peta Winney-Baartz (City of Newcastle Councillor), Alyson Segrott (Project Coordinator, Diocese of Maitland), Gary Parsisson (CEO/Executive Director REACH Homeless Services), Jessica Barry (Compliance & Risk Manager, Baptist World Aid) and Louise Maher (Director, Hunter Valley Events).

IMAGE | The new Hunter Homeless Connect Board – Back: Jessica Barry, Jenn O’Sullivan, Nikki Ashworth, Gary Parsisson, Louise Maher (left-right). Front: Leanne Poole, Michelle Faithfull, Peta Winney-Baartz (left-right). Absent: Alyson Segrott

Hunter Homeless Connect

Home matters. Help matters. Hope matters.

Hunter Homeless Connect (HHC) is a not for profit organisation working to build an inclusive community with zero judgement.

Supported by a community coalition of government and non-government services and volunteers, HHC supports people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness.

Initially founded by community services volunteers in 2009, HHC holds an annual Connect Day where people can access a one-stop-shop of services, including free haircuts, massages, immunisations, birth certificates, bedding, phone cards, food, and clothing. Its popular Community Directory of Services is handed out at each event but is now distributed ongoing and is available online.

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