New sleep bus is driven to keep homeless people safe

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Sleepbus in Queanbeyan.

HOMELESS people are assured of at least one good night’s sleep, courtesy of a sleepbus, which now calls Queanbeyan home.

The community-funded Queanbeyan Sleepbus, launched on Saturday (March 20), provides safe and temporary overnight accommodation for those living on the street.

The 14-bed bus, stationed in the carpark of the Queanbeyan Visitors Centre on Monaro Street, also includes toilets, lockers, pet kennels, security and an intercom system.

Each small sleeping pod comes with a mattress, pillows, sheets, blankets, a lockable door, USB charger and a television with a special channel showing services in the area for pathways out of homelessness.

Sleepbus director Simon Rowe, who established the Sleepbus concept in 2016, says sleep buses normally went to big cities.

“But I was contacted by a number of agencies who said there was a huge need for the bus here in Queanbeyan,” Mr Rowe says.

With more than 100,000 homeless people in Australia, Mr Rowe, who was once homeless himself, says a good nights sleep can “change everything”.

“Everyone functions better after a good rest,” Mr Rowe says.

“What I have found is that people who need assistance are more receptive to accepting help and accessing programs and services when they have had a good nights sleep.”

He says the bus is just for sleep and not a permanent solution to homelessness.

“When I was 19 years old I was an apprentice chef and my car blew up so I had to spend my rent money on fixing it up, I couldn’t pay the rent, I got evicted and ended up sleeping in my car for four months,” Mr Rowe says.

“The idea of the Sleepbus is to give people a safe sleep until they can get back on their feet because it’s important to catch people early so they don’t fall down the rabbit hole and become permanently homeless.”

The bus only operates on weekends, but with winter approaching, Mr Rowe anticipates it opening seven days a week.

He says it will take time to build trust with the homelessness community.

“We didn’t have any guests on our first night in Queanbeyan, you have to build trust first, but on Sunday night we had three young men in their twenties stay,” Mr Rowe says.

“They were laughing and joking and had a great time and a great sleep… it really warms your heart to see that.”

The bus cost $100,000 to buy and fit out, Mr Rowe says, with all money raised by the Queanbeyan Housing Action Collective.

From Melbourne, Mr Rowe spent the past year transforming the bus into a portable shelter, with his two sons.

“With covid hitting in Melbourne, I couldn’t have staff to help me build it, so my family rolled up their sleeves and we got it done,” he says.

One hundred Queanbeyan residents have signed up, so far, for the volunteer overnight caretaker shifts, Mr Rowe says.

A volunteer caretaker ensures guests are safe at night and enjoy a good sleep.

Others wanting to volunteer can visit the Queanbeyan Sleepbus webpage.



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