By Derek Schlennstedt
The Yarra Ranges is often considered a jewel of Victoria, with stunning fern gullies and green paddocks it’s a renowned tourist destination, but, beneath its untainted exterior lies a desperate need for crisis housing accommodation for homeless.
On any given night, in the backstreets and parks of Lilydale, Neal Taylor, CEO of Holy Fools could point out the many locations where people have chosen to sleep – many of which would come as a surprise.
To help raise awareness for the need of a drop-in centre in Lilydale, Billanook Ward Councillor, Tim Heenan, will for his 10th year brave the cold and frost, spending nine nights under the stars in a cardboard box.
Accompanied by Neal Taylor and the Holy Fools, the sleep-out will take place from 4-13 August, coinciding with National Homelessness week.
By the end Cr Heenan will have spent 134 days altogether in Melba Park, Lilydale in his cardboard box.
Cr Heenan began sleeping out in 2008 and said he would continue to participate until people became informed.
This year he is calling on the community to help find a site for Holy Fools to set up a drop-in centre which Lilydale is in dire need of.
“A lot of stuff we do is all reactive, but if we really looked inside our hearts and heads we should be doing things more pro-actively,” Cr Heenan said.
“We keep doing this because we haven’t got the ultimate.”
“Holy Fools needs a drop-in centre, a factory space in Lilydale and we need someone to come forward.”
“We can make a really big difference, Holy Fools just needs to get that little opportunity to go forward and then the whole community will benefit,” Cr Heenan said.
Lilydale has long been a hub for homelessness and as more people move out from Melbourne pressure is mounting on the need for a location where the homeless can go to wash, clean and store their belongings.
Mr Taylor said he and Cr Heenan had seen the increase in the past three years with more people attending each year.
“It never used to be as big as it has in the past three years,” Mr Taylor said.
“It’s become evident, and has shown the need for the drop-in centre because during the event we get so many people who just come out of the woodwork – they just appear.”
The Yarra Ranges Homeless Winter Sleepout will include various activities and on 12 August from 6pm, Neal invites the public to join Holy Fools at Melba Park for a sleepout to experience a taste of homelessness.
The official launch is on Monday, 7 August from 10.30am and will include guest speaker Father Bob Maguire.
For more information about the activities and the event visit https://www.facebook.com/homelessintheYV/