Charity organisation sleepbus, in partnership with ComfortDelGro Corporation Australia (CDC), a leading transport provider in Australia, has launched a new “Pink sleepbus” on the Sunshine Coast and called for more Australians to volunteer to help address the worsening homelessness crisis.
sleepbus takes out-of-service buses and converts them into safe and secure overnight sleeping accommodation for people experiencing homelessness with each bus able to accommodate up to 20 guests in individual sleep pods.
CDC has partnered with sleepbus since 2019, donating buses to be fitted out into safe places to sleep, as well as providing fuel, mechanical repairs, and storage at its local depots throughout the day. The new pink sleepbus is one of five that CDC has donated since the start of its partnership with sleepbus.
The new pink sleepbus on the Sunshine Coast specifically provides a safe place for women and children sleeping rough and joins the Coast’s other sleepbus that is open to all and has provided 1026 safe sleeps to date (13 November) for people – and their pets – doing it tough since its launch in mid-2022.
As housing affordability declines and rents increase, more and more people are struggling to afford a roof over their head, and according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of people experiencing homelessness increased by 5.2% in the five years to 2021 to 122,494 (2021 Census). In the same period, the number of women experiencing homelessness rose by 10.1%.
With the recent cost of living crisis, those numbers continue to rise, with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare noting that in the period from January 2022 to June 2023, the number of people nationally receiving Specialist Homelessness Services has increased by 7.4%, with a staggering 21.7% rise in Queensland in the same period.
Of those people either homeless or at risk of homelessness, 57% were women.
The partnership between sleepbus and CDC offers an immediate and cost-effective solution for the most vulnerable people in the community, helping them off the street or providing them with a safe and secure place to sleep until they are able to get back on their feet.
Both sleepbus services on the Sunshine Coast currently operate three nights a week between about 8.30 pm and 7 am on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays but sleepbus founder Simon Rowe said the organisation could offer its services on more nights, if more Australians were willing to volunteer to help out.
“Our sleepbus service is operated by a 100% volunteer workforce, and we’re calling on community members to get involved. With more hands-on deck, the service will be able to operate more days, providing more people with a safe place to sleep,” Mr Rowe said.
“Since we started operations in Queanbeyan in NSW in March 2020, we have provided 2610 safe sleeps in Queanbeyan, and on the Sunshine Coast and Hervey Bay in Queensland. We’re about to launch sleepbus operations in two more NSW locations in Ballina and Sydney over the next few months, so we need more volunteers.
“It takes about nine people to look after each bus, including a driver to take the bus to the location and another driver to bring them back, an overnight caretaker who has their own sleeping quarters on board, about three service volunteers to onboard guests, and up to three housekeeping volunteers to clean the bus after every night’s use.
“So there’s a range of ways people can help out and we know people’s lives change, so we don’t ask them to commit to regular shifts or hours. Whenever anyone has a few hours to commit to, we welcome them with open arms,” Mr Rowe said.
ComfortDelGro Corporation Australia (CDC) CEO Nicholas Yap said the company was proud to support sleepbus by donating old buses and ongoing provision of operating services as it was an opportunity to give back to the communities it serves.
“We operate some of the largest public bus fleets across Australia and caring for communities is at the heart of everything we do,” Mr Yap said.
“Our corporate value – We Care – is an integral part of our identity and our We Care philosophy is not just about serving customers and building a strong and respected workforce but also giving something back to the communities we serve. This same consideration is the core driver behind sleepbus, and it was this shared value that drew us to the partnership.
“sleepbus is the perfect partner for us as we can not only offer our end-of-use vehicles to be converted and extensive facilities around the country to keep the buses clean, fuelled and operational, but most importantly, help provide some respite for those experiencing homelessness.
“This also gives opportunities for our people to build connections with the communities in the spirit of the values that define us and demonstrate their care. Even if it’s just for a single night, knowing our former buses and our teams are supporting Australians to have a safe and secure place to sleep is important to us as a business,” he said.
Sleepbus vehicles offer up to 20 individual sleep pods with ducted heating and cooling, a lockable door, toilet, and USB charging port, with under-bus storage for belongings and all pets are welcome too.
The service is free for guests and operates on a no-judgement policy, open to anyone who needs it. sleepbus simply asks that guests respect quiet enjoyment, each other and the volunteers.
Volunteers are trained on the job, and onboard security cameras ensure everyone enjoys a safe sleep.
In addition to the existing locations, sleepbus is currently converting more buses with a further ten fully funded projects to launch by mid-2024 in Sydney (NSW), Ballina (NSW), Bundaberg (QLD), Redcliffe (QLD), Ballarat (VIC), Coffs Harbour (NSW), Taree (NSW), Byron Bay/Northern Rivers pink sleepbus (NSW), Mackay (QLD) x2, one being a pink bus, and Sarina (QLD).
For more information see: www.sleepbus.org