By ALLISON HORE
Waverley Council rangers have begun using an “innovative” free app to help rough sleepers and, in the lead up to homelessness week, are encouraging the general public to get involved.
The app was launched 12 months ago by Sydney based entrepreneur Alexandra Tselios and The Jewish House CEO, Rabbi Mendel Kastel. It allows council staff and members of the public to log the location of homeless residents in the community so that they may be identified and linked with appropriate support networks.
It now has more than 1000 downloads across NSW.
“Rather than creating another service to locate homeless people, the app is there to engage the public to make reports and these automatically get sent out to the appropriate services who will then go and help them,” Rabbi Kastel said.
“For the most part, we walk past someone who is homeless and go, “what can we do?”. With the app, you can quickly make a report and get that out to a service. They may not take them off the street but they will make sure that they are OK and that they have what they need.”
The Jewish House is a Bondi based charity organisation which was founded in 1983 as a centre for counselling teenagers away from addiction. Now, it provides many kinds of services for those dealing with homelessness, mental illness, addiction, domestic violence, unemployment, family disputes and other crises.
Mayor of Waverley, Paula Masselos, congratulates the organisation for their success with Mend and in the lead up to homelessness week she is encouraging local residents to download the app.
“Waverley Council acknowledges that not all people in the community have access to safe and secure accommodation and our Rangers are our frontline when it comes to identifying people living on the street who may need support,” Ms. Masselos said.
Whilst Waverley is one of Australia’s wealthiest suburbs, a lack of affordable housing means that homelessness is an issue in the area. Anglicare estimates that fewer than 1% of private rental properties in the Wentworth electorate are affordable for those on low incomes. However, the homelessness problem in the Eastern suburbs is often invisible as many are couch surfing or in overcrowded boarding accommodation.
On the night of the 2016 census, 172 people in Waverley were classified as homeless. This includes people in shelters, boarding houses, temporary housing or those living in severely crowded houses as well as people sleeping rough. The most recent street count held in February found 18 homeless residents sleeping rough in the Waverley area.
Mayor Masselos said she “acknowledges that not all people in the community have access to safe and secure accommodation” and that council rangers would be using the app to assist in their management of public spaces. She said this is just one of the things the council is doing to assist those struggling with homelessness in the area.
“Our Council is committed to addressing homelessness and works with a number specialist services and government agencies on homelessness initiatives. Mend is a simple way the community can help make a difference to those who need it most,” she said.
For members of the public wishing to get involved, Mend is available to download for free on the App Store and Google Play.