Wayside Chapel Pastor and CEO, Jon Owen is proud to provide thousands of people in need with a safe space to gain equitable access to essential health, social and recreational services as well as unconditional love and support and a place to share their stories and experience without fear of judgement.
“The impact of homelessness on our streets is truly devastating. Australians are under extreme financial pressures with the cost-of-living increasing in recent months. We have seen people, even families, forced to sleep on the streets and turn to services like Wayside as they do not have any other option.
“We are grateful to be able to provide support and services for the many people who walk through our doors during some of the hardest times of their lives. There are many people who thank us for our services, but really, we are the lucky ones who get to meet these extraordinary people who are motivated to create a better life for themselves with shelter and comfort off the streets,” Pastor Jon says.
“A man who understands better than most what it is like to sleep on the streets is one of our Wayside visitors, Byron.
“Byron found Wayside after well and truly hitting rock bottom. Byron is an example of someone who made a conscious effort to avoid the devastating path of alcohol and drug addiction which he was witness to during his upbringing, but sadly fell into a period of drug and gambling addiction forcing him onto the streets.
“Byron had done everything to provide a better life for his children, often working multiple jobs but after a relationship breakdown at 55 years of age, Byron’s life spiralled and he ended up living on the streets. Byron is now out the other side and goes to bed in the same place every night and can walk from his front door to his front fence and see Bondi Beach. Sadly, we know there are still so many people struggling and not everyone has the same experience as Byron.
“According to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data on homelessness, there are more than 116,000 people experiencing homelessness in Australia. However, we are not seeing the number of people needing support decreasing, so we can only assume this is continuing to grow.
“We are encouraging the community to put themselves in the shoes of those sleeping on the streets and participate in the Long Walk Home fundraiser this Friday, 7 October, which is a 28km walk from Parramatta to Kings Cross. People outside of Sydney can do the virtual version online wherever they are located.
“The inspiration for the Long Walk Home challenge sprang from our own data after we provided pedometers to some of our regular homeless visitors, and discovered that some of them were walking, on average, about 28 km every week to access vital support services, food and to find a safe place to sleep.
“We want to help more people like Byron overcome the challenges of homelessness as we know there are so many people struggling to put a roof over their head. If we can provide support services, or even just a friendly face for those in need, we know we are doing something to make a difference.”
To find out more about how you can participate or donate, head to the Long Walk Home.