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Event: What does homelessness really look like. 5.30pm 4 June 2021

Darlo General teams up with the amazing NGO Rough Edges to get real about homelessness and caring for our community

We are completely committed to community here at DG. So you could imagine our absolute delight when we connected with the incredible Rough Edges, a NGO serving the homeless and marginalised in Darlinghurst. Rough Edges creates spaces where different community members can come together, share a meal and connect – so it totally made sense for us to collaborate on an event!

Event Alert! On Friday 4th June from 5.30 to 7.30pm, come to the store to hear a first person account of what it’s like to experience homelessness. Andrew will share his story of growing up in the country as an outsider, coming to Sydney to find a place where he could belong. Along the way, he experienced homelessness, addiction, mental health and trauma. Andrew will have you in tears of laughter and sorrow as you learn about how he felt unwanted by society. Andrew is now employed by Rough Edges to lead Urban Walks around Darlinghurst and Kings Cross, educating groups around the issues of urban poverty. What an amazing night this will be!

This event is free but RSVP is essential:

Ahead of the event, we sat down with Rough Edges’ Fundraising & Community Engagement Manager Jen Webster to talk the wins, the challenges, and how we can all make a difference to our community.

DG: Tell me about the Rough Edges genesis story, when and why did it all begin?

JW: Rough Edges originally started as PJs Cafe in 1987 to be a safe inclusive space for sex workers and the transgender community to have a place away from the street. Today, Rough Edges is a community drop-in centre for people who are experiencing homelessness, marginalisation or social isolation. We provide connection, meals, social services support, a legal service and skills-based workshops.

What have been the biggest wins for Rough Edges so far?

Rough Edges has been serving the community for the past 25 years, so a lot has happened in that time!

One big achievement was the creation of the social enterprise (our Urban Exposure program) where we employ people with a lived experience of homelessness to educate groups around the issues of urban poverty.

If we look at the past 12 months, the pandemic inspired us to work smarter through staying open and increasing our services. The biggest win would be having the Darlinghurst community rallying to support us and other services so the patrons (our word for clients) were cared for.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

During COVID, we decided that if patrons couldn’t come into Rough Edges, we would find a way to take our service out to them. Thanks to a City of Sydney grant, we were able to develop a series of new skill-based workshops, initially teaching cooking and photography, partnering with local professionals. We are working with a Community Advisory Board so that the patrons can tell us what workshops they want, rather than us deciding what we think they need.

Last year, we also started a new service to support women who have experienced domestic and family violence called Banksia Women. Once a woman is out of crisis and other services step back, that’s when we step in through offering casework and support programs that empower a woman to rebuild her life. There is a correlation here: an estimated 41% of people accessing homelessness services are survivors of domestic and family violence.

What are some common misconceptions around homelessness and marginalisation you’d love to set straight?

That 'rough sleepers represent all homelessness'. They are only 7% of the total number. The remainder are people living in refuges, boarding houses, cars and caravans, or in overcrowded or temporary accommodation.

That 'people experiencing homelessness are uneducated or lazy'. We believe that ~90% of people who come to Rough Edges are dealing with unresolved childhood trauma and live with mental illness, addiction and other issues.

That 'people choose to be homeless’. There is a saying that we are all only three degrees away from homelessness. Causes of homelessness include: family breakdown, mental illness, sexual assault, addiction, financial stress, gambling, social isolation, and importantly a shortage of affordable housing. These can literally happen to anyone.

What can we each do to better support our marginalised communities?

As a first simple step, acknowledge the humanity of people who are different to you. If you see someone sitting on the street, say hello as you walk by. As a further step, stop and have a conversation with them and ask how their day is going. Offer to buy them a coffee or a sandwich. Listen to their story.

How can the community get involved with Rough Edges?

We have an active volunteer community as our night service (six nights a week) is totally volunteer-run:

Donations are always welcome as financial support enables us to keep the service running:

Bring your group on an Urban Walk and experience this wonderful program:

Tell me a bit more about the Urban Walk initiative?

How the Urban Walk program runs is that a person with a lived experience weaves their personal story into a walk around the local area stopping at landmarks relevant to the issues they discuss. Traditionally we have taken mainly school and corporate groups through the program.

What we are aiming to do is extend this to all local residents and businesses and use it as an opportunity to build a more cohesive community. Many of the local residents and businesses already interact with and support Rough Edges' patrons, so holding a series of Urban Walks for the community may provide context around those interactions.

We have a goal to blur the lines of society so there is no ‘us’ and ’them’. We are all simply one human community.

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