On a cold, windy day in August, more than 500 people gathered in Geelong to walk up to 37 km for homelessness. We talk to SalvoConnect Barwon Network director Lorrinda Hamilton about why the Salvos’ annual ‘Walking Home’ event is so important in the region’s fight against homelessness.
What is Walking Home and how does it support the Salvos?
This year, we moved Walking Home to 5 August to coincide with Homelessness Week. It is the coldest time of the year and is when most people who are homeless are likely to be overcome by the elements. Together the community walks to raise awareness about the chronic issue of homelessness, lack of housing supply in the Barwon region and to raise funds for the Salvos to make a difference.
Who is affected by homelessness?
On any given night, one in 200 Australians are homeless. Homelessness can affect anyone you know—your neighbour, your friends, even your family. There is a wide diversity of people turning to us for help for many different reasons.
Homelessness is underpinned by issues such as family violence, a shortage of affordable housing, unemployment, mental illness, family breakdown, financial distress and drug and alcohol misuse.
When did Walking Home begin and why was it started?
This was our 10th annual Walking Home event. The event was started to raise awareness about homelessness and has built to a fundraising campaign to address the problem. The funds raised from Walking Home support housing outcomes for men, women and children who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in the Barwon Region.
What has funding gone towards in previous years?
The money raised in last year’s Walking Home event supported the opening of Lazarus Centre, formerly the Old Geelong Gaol’s governor’s residence. It enables people who are homeless or isolated to access showers, washing machines, meals, homelessness workers and volunteers—building a community. The centre offers housing assessments and pathways out of homelessness, due to specialist workers being available every day on site.
What ambassadors are supporting the event this year?
Brittany Davis is the ambassador of Walking Home, but unfortunately her partner, Geelong football player Joel Selwood, was injured and was unable to walk. The Block’s Ben and Andy were our MCs. They have a commitment to raising awareness about homelessness and have been actively promoting initiatives that seek to address the issue.
What route did people take this year, and how far did they walk?
The total walk distance is 37 km, from Queenscliff to the Geelong waterfront, but walkers could choose between four distances, depending on fitness level and time availability. Whatever their distance, they walked alongside dedicated representatives of the many organisations who deliver services to homeless people, as well as many other people uniting against homelessness.
What does it mean to ‘walk home’ and why Is it so significant that so many members of the community engage with this?
It provides an opportunity for the community to unite together against homelessness, walk together in activism, tire together, feel the elements and consciously think about those who have no home or secure housing to walk home to.