Safe Shelter ACT

History of Safe Shelter

The origins of Safe Shelter

Safe Shelter Pilot Project development

Beginning in 2010, the Safe Shelter Group (a collective of community members who noted the lack of crisis accommodation for those sleeping rough in the Civic area, organised by the Rotary Club of Canberra) began several years of scoping, brainstorming, wading through legislations and consulting with various community members and industry leaders. Eventually, they drew inspiration from the church halls of inner Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne, which regularly open up to provide varying crisis shelter services.

In early 2013, the Safe Shelter Group formally wrote to the Church Council of the St Columba's Uniting Church seeking approval to run a pilot program in their Lewis Hall on Wednesday nights between May and September 2013. The St Columba’s Church Council and Congregation unanimously agreed to the proposal. Throughout the winter of 2013, St Columba's Safe Shelter Pilot Project saw 12 bed nights accommodated with the support of 36 volunteers. This was only possible with external support from a number of services, such as key food and shower facilities being provided at the Early Morning Centre.

A detailed record of the pilot project development and outcomes can be found in the 2013 Annual Report below.

Expanding the St Columba's Safe Shelter Project

After further review and development, the St Columba's Safe Shelter Project expanded to three nights a week, Tuesdays through Thursdays, at St Columba’s in 2014. 99 bed nights were accommodated with the support of 57 volunteers. Tuesdays through Thursdays became a staple over the following two years, with 2015 seeing 84 bed nights provided by 113 volunteers, and 2016 seeing 134 bed nights provided by 90 volunteers. During this time, Orange Sky Laundry began providing laundry facilities to Safe Shelter guests one night per week with their mobile laundry van.

Safe Shelter ACT

In 2017, the St Columba's Safe Shelter Project was joined by Safe Shelter Pilot Projects on Monday nights from All Saints Anglican Church, Ainslie, and on Friday nights from the Salvation Army Canberra City Corps. A Coordinating Committee, made up of representatives from each project, volunteer coordinators and leaders in the homelessness support sector, oversaw efforts to coordinate a consistent Safe Shelter ACT service across the three projects.

Safe Shelter hosted guests 5 nights each week in 2017, for a total of 379 bed nights accommodated by 111 volunteers. Orange Sky Laundry returned to provide laundry facilities in their van. Take One, Leave One: The Winter Coat project also began providing support to Safe Shelter guests one night per week, while Coffee Ruckus in Braddon gave invaluable support to the Salvation Army Safe Shelter Pilot Project by providing breakfast vouchers for guests to use on Saturday mornings.

In 2018, the All Saints Ainslie Safe Shelter Project and the Salvation Army Canberra City Corps Safe Shelter Project expanded to each hosting two nights per week. With All Saints open on Sunday and Monday nights, St Columba's open on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, and the Salvation Army open on Friday and Saturday nights, Safe Shelter ACT met its original goal of having a shelter for men open every night in winter. During winter 2018, 743 bed nights were provided by 164 volunteers. Take One, Leave One returned for another year, as did Orange Sky Laundry, whose new van 'Frosty' provided laundry and shower facilities one night per week. Additionally, McDonalds Braddon provided vouchers for guests to receive a free breakfast on Sundays and public holidays, alongside Coffee Ruckus who continued providing breakfast vouchers for Saturday mornings.

In 2019, Safe Shelter continued to operate seven nights a week, and opened for an extra three weeks compared to previous years. A total of 1271 bed nights being provided by 134 volunteers. The Mercy Foundation and McDonald's jointly funded vouchers for 2019 & 2020 to provide breakfast for guests on weekends and public holidays.

In 2020, Safe Shelter suspended operations prior to opening due to COVID-19, also known as the caronavirus, in acknowledgement that we could not implement a COVID-safe plan that included accommodating groups of people in one confined space. Argyle Housing launched the Winter Lodge, a pilot project at Ainslie Villiage, as part of the ACT Government's response to COVID-19. The Winter Lodge eventually became the Ainslie Lodge, expanded to year-round operations. An increase in Government responses to homelessness, combined with the challenges of operating the Safe Shelter model within COVID-safe guidelines (such as social distancing, mask wearing, the emergence of new variants, and the questions of how to operate during a lockdown or how to appropriately handle people presenting with symptoms), along with changes of prioirities for the use of the Church halls, saw the Safe Shelter Management Committee decide to conclude the Safe Shelter project in early 2022.

Safe Shelter Annual Reports

2019 Annual Report

Safe Shelter 2019 Report.pdf

2018 Annual Report

Safe Shelter 2018 Report.pdf

2017 Annual Report

Safe Shelter 2017 Report.pdf

2016 Annual Report

Safe Shelter 2016 Report.pdf

2015 Annual Report

Safe Shelter 2015 Report.pdf

2014 Annual Report

Safe Shelter 2014 Report.pdf

2013 Pilot Project Report

Safe Shelter 2013 (Pilot Project) Report.pdf