18 March 2021

Region's homeless to rest easy with arrival of Queanbeyan sleepbus

| Michael Weaver
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Sleepbus founder Simon Rowe

Sleepbus founder Simon Rowe during the construction of the Queanbeyan Sleepbus. Photo: Supplied.

Homeless people in the Queanbeyan region can finally sleep a bit easier after a community project to bring the first sleepbus to the area rolled into town this week.

The long-awaited mobile homeless shelter which has had its own delays thanks to the COVID pandemic, arrived from Melbourne after Sleepbus founder Simon Rowe spent the past year constructing the portable shelter with his sons.

The Queanbeyan Sleepbus has 14 beds or pods, two toilets, personal lockers, storage, pet kennels for people with pets, security and an intercom system. Each pod comes with a mattress, pillows, sheets, blankets (washed daily), USB charging, lockable door and a television with a special channel showing services in the area for pathways out of homelessness.

A volunteer caretaker will ensure guests are safe and enjoy a good night’s sleep and Mr Rowe has already received 100 sign-ups from Queanbeyan locals volunteering for the overnight caretaker shift. He is still looking for more people to volunteer to help, which can be done via the Sleepbus Queanbeyan webpage.

One of the sleepbus pods

One of the sleepbus pods. Photo: Supplied.

As the father of twin boys with the mantra that a good night’s sleep changes everything, Mr Rowe was challenged by his sons to address the issue after meeting a homeless man he described as the most tired man he’d ever seen. From there, the Sleepbus not-for-profit organisation was awoken.

“This has been a valuable experience for my boys who are now 21 as they are a driving force in helping me do all the fabrication of the buses,” Mr Rowe told Region Media.

The first people will be able to use the Sleepbus this Saturday night (20 March), while Mr Rowe is pushing for the bus to operate seven days a week before winter.

“Our accommodation is not a long-term solution – we don’t offer counselling, we don’t give money, we don’t provide the Ritz. What we do provide is a safe night’s sleep. We get people off the street,” he said.

People standing in front of the sleepbus

People from the Queanbeyan community came to check out the sleepbus when it arrived this week. Photo: Sleepbus Facebook.

While Simon Rowe is the public face of the project, there has been a platoon of community supporters in the Queanbeyan region who have raised more than $100,000 to bring the sleepbus to Queanbeyan. Funding of $50,000 each year has also been guaranteed to ensure the sleepbus is here to stay for at least the next five years.

It began in 2019 when about a dozen people formed the Queanbeyan Housing Action Collective to address the needs of the growing number of people facing homelessness in the area.

The Collective’s convener, Viv Cox, described the arrival of the sleepbus as a fantastic achievement that will make a real difference to hundreds of people facing homelessness.

“Our aim has been to address issues of the lack of affordable housing and homelessness,” Ms Cox said.

“This is our first project and when we consulted with the community, the first thing we told them is that they might be surprised to know there are plenty of people sleeping rough or unsafe situations in our own area.”

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Fundraising events, including a sleeping rough sleepover, were held and the Queanbeyan community again stepped up to raise the money that gave priority for the Queanbeyan sleepbus to be built.

The Terry Campese Foundation jumped on board along with a large number of Queanbeyan businesses. With the blessing of the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council, the sleepbus will operate at the Queanbeyan Visitor Information Centre opposite the new Queanbeyan Police Station.

“We’re just so proud that the community has responded to just one part of the housing situation in the area and the wider issue of housing affordability,” said Ms Cox.

“Now that the community has done all the hard work and achieved this, we’re really happy to see this come to fruition.

“We also really appreciated the model that Simon had so carefully and thoughtfully developed after some of our service providers asked a few tough questions.”

Simon Rowe said the next project, which is still seeking a major sponsor, is a pink female-only sleepbus for Canberra which is expected to be ready by winter.

(You can view the latest update on the Canberra sleepbus below and see more on the Sleepbus website).

Original Article published by Michael Weaver on The RiotACT.

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