In conjunction with the Rosies street ministry, this full-day event took place on Saturday, 26 July 2014 in the Hanrahan Theatre of the Augustine Centre at Villanova in the Brisbane suburb of Coorparoo (photo below).The staff of Rosies’ was involved in preparation of the conference. Rosies is an outreach to homeless and disadvantaged youth that, among other activities, conducts a mobile coffee van for youth on the streets of central Brisbane on Friday nights. Thirty-two Villanova students are rostered to staff the van on the eight nights per year that are Villanova’s staffing responsibility; this is under the care of Mr John Holroyd (Villanova’s Vice-Principal for Ministry, Mission and Evangelisation), who also assisted with the homelessness conference. Fr Peter Wieneke OSA, Villanova’s Chaplain, led the conference’s opening prayer and attended the full-day event.
The invited guest speakers at the conference included Dr Cameron Parsell of the University of Queensland, who spoke of his experience since 2007 of speaking with homeless people on the streets of Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Darwin. He has been researching the efficacy of various government responses to homelessness. Additional presenters were Cat Milton (Rosies’ Planning and Development Officer), who gave anonymous examples of youth she has met, and Carla Harvey (a staff member of the BoysTown at Woodridge, near Brisbane) provided her first-hand insights.
A participant said, “Listening to Carla is quite an education - you realise that there is a “hidden” Brisbane, where teenagers don’t go to school because they haven’t eaten for two days, or because they haven’t got shoes for their feet. It is quite humbling that we may be able to find some small way of helping these young people at BoysTown and elsewhere."
As well as these talks and the discussion sessions, student participants at the conference were given the awareness-raising challenge of constructing an overnight shelter on a concrete floor by using cardboard cartons. (Photo at above right) The conference concluded with each school presenting key learnings from the day under the headings of Awareness, Advocacy and Action.
One student summed up the conference thus: “The homeless day conference was an enlightening experience that taught all participants very valuable lessons, not only about homelessness but also about ways our school communities can help. The best part of the day was the presentation from Cat at Rosies, as she was extremely insightful and hit many people’s hearts with the touching stories”.
Since the conference Villanova has launched the following immediate initiatives:
• On the following Thursday Fr Wieneke and a group of eight students visited the drop-in centre at BoysTown at Woodridge to learn more about the being done there, and to present a cheque.
• At Villanova students are collecting good quality second-hand male clothing to be sold at the local Salvos store, with all proceeds going to Streetlevel, an outreach program for homeless people that operates at Fortitude Valley in inner-city Brisbane.
• On Sunday, 12 October 2014 Villanova Year Twelve students and their mothers will work side by side to create care-packs for the Rosies patrons. Donations of food and hygiene products are already flowing in.