By Derek Schlennstedt
In the Yarra Ranges, winter means bitter cold temperatures, frost warnings and sometimes even snow.
For the majority, the customary response is to curl up inside beside a roaring fire.
However, many are not guaranteed this luxury, and in a first for the Yarra Ranges, Stable One, a not for profit organisation, and various Yarra Valley churches have banded together to help support the homeless over winter.
This support takes form in food; warmth and a roof over their heads, and each night around 10 homeless individuals are given the opportunity to sleep in a safe space at one of the many churches in the region.
The ground-breaking program specifically runs over the coldest months of the year from 3 June until 1 September.
Jenny Willets, Stable One facilitator, said the initiative was aimed at offering safe and supportive accommodation for those experiencing, or at risk of homelessness in Lilydale and Mount Evelyn.
“We have established partnerships with local churches, and are helping them to work together to run the shelter, using their building as venues and members as volunteers,” she said.
“It offers a safe, caring community environment where guests receive an evening meal, the opportunity to socialise and enjoy community, a comfortable bed in the church halls, a light breakfast and support to link into other services and agencies.”
Around 30 churches across the Yarra Ranges are involved including Mount Evelyn, Kilsyth, Lilydale, Yarra Glen and Wandin and150 trained volunteers are involved in helping to make their stay as comfortable as possible.
Jenny noted that since its inception it has helped various homeless people onto their feet.
“Since coming here, everything has started to go better in my life,” said one individual who had spent the night at the Lilydale Baptist Church.
Trevor Ingamells said the program not only provided people with acommodation, but also was able to help people thrive, and commented on one person who since having a regular place to sleep was able to find a job.
“Once he had somewhere to stay, he could build on that, it took some stress off and he was keen to work … he now works three days a week and on those three days, he leaves early and goes to work,” he said.
If you are experiencing homelessness and are from the Yarra Ranges area, call 1800 431 244.