Posted by Joy McCaffrey on Mar 18, 2019
Ross Tingle introduced our guest speaker for the evening Terry Stanton, who is a retired Solicitor and who is married, with three grown up children. He is also an amazing musician. He has recently taken up an interest in the homeless within our local area. Over the years, through his local church, he has had the opportunity of taking on welfare work.
Terry talked to us about what he terms as his “tiny career in welfare”. Following please find his presentation to us which you will find most interesting.
It seems to me that I am impertinent even to TRY to talk to you about this. I apologise for that, and ask you to be patient and tolerant.
But the little I have done and the people who came to me for help were a revelation, especially the homeless or those threatened with it.
The revelation was that perhaps Welfare efforts to deal with Homelessness are too fragmented.
When I started I was given a list with 8 volunteer welfare bodies on it, those which most of us come from. People can be referred to them for different things.
They are open on different days. People who are new to the system or the area won't know easily where to go or when. It was better six hundred years ago in Europe and Britain. The homeless and the hungry and poor went to the Monastery. Everybody knew where it was. In any case it was huge and stood out for miles around.
I went to an Interagency meeting on 6th February to listen to what they do, and then to talk to them about the idea of getting a homeless shelter going in Taree.
There were 28 people there including me. Only another three or four were volunteers. The others were all from Government agencies or NGOs financed by the government. They offered me lots of good advice, and although they said setting up a Shelter was a good thing, none of them were prepared to do anything None volunteered. They said the Government lays down strict guidelines about what their organisations can do with the money. I had hoped they might help in their own time, but many of them have quite distressing jobs doing what they do for the disadvantaged.
Many of these groups are concerned in one way or another with the Homeless. If they are dealing with young children who are in need of care it can often be because their parents have nowhere decent to look after them. Problems with teenagers may be due to homelessness, and some of you may come across that in the causes you fund-raise for.
Some deal with mental health, and recognise that people become homeless because of mental problems, and those who are homeless develop mental problems because they are homeless.
The objective of those groups should be to make life easier for the poor and homeless, and help them escape from it. It works better for women, since they can often genuinely blame their homelessness on the violence or other bad behaviour of husbands and boyfriends. But whether for men of women there is simply not enough social housing. Few people want to pay tax to pay for it, even though someone they love might need it.
But men can sometimes be homeless for similar reasons. Of course, it would be wonderful if we could eliminate homelessness.
The basic part of the homeless problem is that we have nowhere to house the homeless for a reasonable period where they can find rest, food, clean up, and go out looking decent to find work, and pay rent or a mortgage. It is very hard to go to a job interview looking smart if you're sleeping in a cardboard box under Martin Bridge.
We need to set up a homeless shelter in Taree. I understand that a volunteer group has collected and raised $800,000 to create a Shelter for women in Forster, and there are two Women's refuges in Taree.
Of the 8 or 9 homeless people I have encountered doing welfare work at the MUC, only one was a lady, who came in with a delightful boy of 5. She had been transferred into a motel by the Samaritans. One of the men had left the place he was staying to get away from the drug culture, and had found a room at the Fotheringham Hotel, but said his rent was almost as much as his benefits. He came in for food as he couldn't pay his electricity bills, and clothe himself.
Think how helping to fund a Shelter for men would add to the wonderful work Rotary do. Think of the power one big organisation would command to seek grants, if the Rotary Clubs in Taree and Wingham combined with the various Churches to do it, and the money they could raise with their charity activities. But it has to be done together. We have to unite. None of us alone has the money or other resources. I am trying to get all the local Churches on board, as many of them have welfare functions already. One body could do all of this work under one roof if we had one. 
What do we need to get a shelter? We need a plan.
Do I have a plan? I shouldn't be here if I did not have one. So I'm going to tell you a story. So there it is. They have 2 shelters in two towns a bit closer to each other than Taree and Forster.
One of the problems of being homeless is that you are perceived as being undesirable and undeserving. But the people I meet in welfare do not, for the most part, want to be homeless and in need. They aren't undeserving. It's just that most people with a home think they are.
Before you say; "Ridiculous!!" think about this. A philanthropic millionaire buys three houses in your street to turn them into a homeless shelter. Will you immediately write to the Planning Department and say: "Great. Grant planning permission at once"? Will your nice neighbours do so?
Many people would worry about the value of their house diminishing. Others would worry about their children walking to school past these 'undesirables'. So the building has to be in a more or less unobjectionable place.
There are many large disused buildings or plots of waste ground in Taree which are not surrounded by homes. There's the old dairy in Chatham - empty for at least 10 years to my knowledge. There's the old Embletons factory in Katanga Drive on a vast plot- deserted for a decade. There are two big plots on either side of the Tide aboriginal building in Victoria Street.
Look at the size of many of the single story buildings in town. We could take the roof off and put one or two floors of a huge shelter up there. It could be done at the MUC in Albert Street. One member of our Church Council proposed putting a second floor up there a couple of years ago. Or it could be done at the River City Church in Cowper Street, which also has a car park and adjoins a vacant plot.
Think about it. You will all come up with a suitable site. 
So there's the plan. How do we run it? I suggest along the lines of St Joseph's. No-one's role or position should be, or feel threatened. Indeed, we might find we're doing new jobs.
Instead of dishing out food parcels, I may find myself working in reception in the shelter, or helping change beds, or doing the washing up. The Samaritans do most of the homeless work there is so far, so they should be the reference point for sending people to the Shelter, perhaps, or it could be the Wesley Mission which opened its new
office in Manning Street last week. It would be marvellous if the Wesley Mission could take over the Shelter if it gets off the ground as it would fit so well with all the welfare work they do already. We couldn't just build it and leave it to run itself. No-one should ask: "What do I get out of all this?"
Everyone should ask: "What can I do to help?"
Remember what President Kennedy said. "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country." What counts here are the homeless and what we can do for them.
We need to set up a working group to handle different aspects of the project. I'll do what I can, and anything I'm asked to do, I'll try to do. Will you be involved? Is there anyone who can advise me on creating a business plan? Is there someone who knows the local property market, what is available, are there any buildings which could be acquired, or might even be donated? How can money be raised? We need to consider all this at another meeting.
I have written to several homeless organisations in Australia seeking guidance on these questions. I have not had a decent reply from any of them, except "Our Own Backyard" in Cardiff, which runs a secure car park with toilets showers and a kitchen for people who are living in a car. There are two Churches in Taree with sizeable car parks. One is St Johns, and the other is River City in Cowper Street. They have toilets and a kitchen in their buildings, but no showers. I can't get a reply from River
City, but Father Peter Tinney has agreed to put it to his Anglican Parish Council, but neither of us holds his breath
The English one is the only one which responded fast and with what I wanted. There are some copies of a chain of emails I exchanged with the St Joseph's people in England for those who are interested. Do any of you want to help?
If any of you have any ideas, please tell me now, or send me an email later. My email is My phone number is 02 6553 1360.

Neil Hanington gave the vote of thanks to Terry on behalf of our Club for his very passionate and enlightening presentation. Thank you Terry.