A second 20-sleeper bus, made specifically for women and children, is set to be released on the Sunshine Coast after the state’s first homeless bus was introduced last year for men by the Maroochy Neighbourhood Centre.
Since the pandemic, an ongoing housing affordability crisis has hit Sunshine Coast communities, leaving many people and families sleeping on the street and in their cars, unable to afford rent. Now more than ever the people of this community need support, and Maroochy Neighbourhood Centre is stepping up to fill the gap in services and support.
Since 2016, the centre has been providing free meals and wraparound services to the homeless and hungry with their One Roof Project. The success of this project led Michael Henning (CEO), the Community Development Coordinator (Mark Ellis) and their team of devoted staff and volunteers to raise funds to run their new Sleep Bus Programme.
“The One Roof Project really compelled us to develop the sleep bus programme. We did some research and found this company in Melbourne called sleepbus.org. They transform tourist coaches into sleep buses using a Japanese pod system. We thought, OK let’s give it a bash.”
CDC Bus Lines on the Sunshine Coast donated the buses which were sent to Melbourne to be transformed. At a cost of $100,000 for each bus to be converted, and with no government support, the Sleep Bus Programme has been entirely funded by the broader Sunshine Coast community. After just 15 months of fundraising, the Maroochy Neighbourhood Centre had the money for their first bus, a sleeper for 20 homeless men.
“We asked for a bus for men because there are no accommodation services for men here on the Sunshine Coast at all. Most homeless men are often accommodated outside of the region rather than on the Coast, so we decided to work on that first.”
The tireless efforts to raise money for the first sleep bus paid off, shortly after the first bus was released in June 2021, the community started asking Michael about the possibility of more buses, quickly raising the funds for a second bus to be converted.
“Once we got that [the first] bus, the question from the community was “well, what about women and children?”. We said, we would respond to that if the demand was there… and two and a half weeks later, we got the money for the next bus.”
Initiatives like the Sleep Bus Programme, are happening all over Queensland, being brought into reality by the passionate people in our Neighbourhood and Community Centres. With so many centres underfunded, this work relies on the dedication of the staff, volunteers and community.
“If we see a need and if we have a capacity to respond, then we respond. If we can’t respond ourselves then we look at the community and see how the community, our collaborations and partnerships to help us. I don’t think politicians fully understand what Neighbourhood Centres do. If they did, I think we’d be better resourced and better funded to do what we normally do.”
The second bus, nicknamed The ‘Pink Bus’ is currently being transformed in Melbourne and is due to arrive in a few months, giving women and children a much-needed safe space to sleep. It will be the second of only two buses in Queensland, and four in Australia.