Homeless Persons Week BBQ Harris Park

Men who have lived through homelessness broke bread with Mission Australia staff at a Harris Park hostel at a National Homeless Persons Week barbecue on Friday.

About 50 people attended the annual sausage sizzle on Station Street from 12pm, including Marcail Delgado, 72, of Telopea, who slept rough on Paramatta’s streets for several winter months before he met his ‘‘saviour’’, a case manager from the hostel named Maria Huerta.

‘‘My situation was very, very bad, very big depression, I nearly tried to go over on the other side,’’ Mr Delgado said. ‘‘But then I found Maria, she helped me a lot.’’

More than a year ago, Ms Heurta helped Mr Delgado move from off the street and into a little room of his own in Telopea, where he remains today.

‘‘It’s very nice, I love it. I’m very happy there and I say thank you to Maria and all the staff.’’

Andrew Lang, 54, who is staying with his brother at Rosehill while he waits for a place to live, said Mission Australia had done a ‘‘marvellous job’’.

‘‘For some people, it’s venturing out for the first time or second time, and finding that you’re not alone,’’ Mr Lang said.

‘‘It’s the first time I’ve been able to get to any of their social events so I’m glad for the opportunity. Everyone was wonderful, very friendly and warm.’’

Mission Australia’s Parramatta services area manager Lyndall Whittall described the barbecue as a chance for those who have experienced hardship to get out and enjoy good food and good company.

‘‘It’s just important to bring people together,’’ Ms Whittall said.

‘‘A lot of single men who are homeless face isolation, they spend a lot of time on their own and they’re not engaged with family or friends or members of the community. Our barbecues serve those two purposes of getting them to have a nice warm meal and to catch up with other people.’’

Ms Whittall said it was great to see members of her team from across a range of services break out the barbecue and pitch in at the event.

‘‘We’ve got staff from our Access program manning the barbecue and we have staff from the Job Services Australia program taking time out from their normal jobs.’’

A breakdown of regional figures from the 2011 Census reveals more than 2,100 people in the Parramatta region were homeless on census night.

Breakdown of ABS data for Parramatta region:

Persons who are in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out - 85

Persons in supported accommodation for the homeless - 252

Persons staying temporarily with other households - 195

Persons staying in boarding houses – 130

Persons living in other temporary lodging - 15

Persons living in severely crowded dwellings – 1,460

Total homeless persons – 2,137

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