Dom’s mission to make a differenceJanuary 30, 2023
Dom was living at home with his parents when a family member’s addiction suddenly made ‘home’ a place that was unpredictable, chaotic, and stressful. In this confusing time, Dom found help and refuge with the CatholicCare team. He was given a safe place to stay, an understanding ear and a plethora of options for his future. Sadly, as Dom was beginning to pursue his dream of becoming a Caseworker, he passed away suddenly from a heart condition. He left behind friends, family, and what seemed at the time to be an unfulfilled mission.
Dom’s mission was not left unfulfilled for very long. Just months later, Dom’s Place was opened and named in his honour, providing homeless people in Sydney’s north a safe place to visit, enjoy social interaction and connect with support services.
A 2008 report found there were 382 homeless households across the Hornsby Local Government Area, a figure likely exacerbated by the economic effects of the COVID pandemic.
“The growing need for social support and connection in Hornsby and the wider region of Northern Sydney motivated us to embark on this new course of action,” says Rebecca, Program Lead for CatholicCare’s Specialist Homelessness Service and Together Home program.
“Dom’s Place operates as a ‘one-stop-shop,’ an inclusive space where people can feel safe and connected within the community,” Rebecca says. “Someone might pop in to get a meal, wash their clothes, shower, and chat with a social worker to address housing needs. A vulnerable young person could come and play a game of pool with their friends. Another might access cooking classes and connect with volunteer and employment pathways.”
Rebecca says the idea for Dom’s Place came in response to the needs of the people CatholicCare was serving in its homelessness services. “We have seen that some of our clients are quite socially isolated,” she says. “They’re lonely and lacking connection which can be a trigger for substance use and mental health. They are lacking community, family, and a reason to get up in the morning. Dom’s Place helps them feel a part of something, they can connect with others in a safe space or drop in for a cup of tea or to engage with some of our services.”
While many people who are homeless find temporary accommodation by couch surfing with friends or shelters, others find themselves sleeping rough on the streets. “There are actually quite a lot of rough sleepers in the Hornsby area.”
Despite the challenges of the role, Rebecca says, “the thing I love most about my job is seeing how the right support and understanding from our program can really change someone’s life.”
Since Dom’s Place opened in April, 55 year old Melissa has been a regular visitor. Melissa says she was “found” by CatholicCare after living in her car and on the streets. She has now moved into housing. Melissa says Dom’s Place is a place where people can “gain friends and have a sense of belonging. These are people who are really vulnerable in the community, some of the most loving and beautiful people you’ll meet and if you take the time to hear their story, you’ll find they’re no different to anyone else. They’re just people who need something to help them belong and deal with their trauma.”
Since Dom’s Place opened the team have focused on filling some of the day-to-day gaps in local services for people experiencing homelessness.
To help this important service get up and running, CatholicCare undertook a public fundraising campaign which raised over $60,000.
We would like to thank all our donors and the following companies for their incredible support – the My Republic Team who donated the NBN and technology including the client computer lab and smart TV’s, GRC, Bunnings, our wonderful partners including Dignity, Mission Australia, Link Wentworth, St George Community Housing, Hornsby Shire Council, Vinnies, Smart Recovery, Linwood Lodge, Aboriginal Legal, Hornsby Police and Service NSW.
A special mention also to Angie Conlon who was instrumental in developing this important service in memory of her son, Dom.