Home » First Pink Sleepbus launches on the Sunshine Coast amid housing crisis

First Pink Sleepbus launches on the Sunshine Coast amid housing crisis

by Narges Mohammadi

Queensland’s first Pink Sleepbus will provide vulnerable women and children a safe place to rest on the Sunshine Coast next month.

A specialised service providing “compassion and a hand up”, the sleepbus is the first of five destined for regions across the state.

The pink bus was donated by ComfortDelGro Corporation Australia after being decommissioned in Gladstone.

Constructed in Melbourne, they each cost about $100,000 to build and launch.

The other buses, which are for men, are destined for Mackay, Bundaberg, Hervey Bay and Redcliffe next year.

Maroochy Neighbourhood Centre fundraiser Mark Ellis said the bus was essential to respond to a rise in homelessness on the Sunshine Coast.

Shocked by the 2019 bashing death of homeless man David Collins, Mr Ellis inspired a fundraising effort that delivered the region’s first Blue Sleepbus for men in 2022.

“Sleep deprivation destroys them,” Mr Ellis said.

“When you sleep rough for months, your mental health deteriorates, then your physical health deteriorates and then sadly, after time, you die.”

Mr Ellis said he hoped the sleepbuses would help put a stop to the unnecessary deaths.

“But we need volunteers,” Mr Ellis said.

“You can ask for help if people who care are around you.”

He said a permanent end to homelessness was desperately needed.

“They’re sleeping right outside our door … for us to go, ‘I don’t want to know you’ is arrogant,” Mr Ellis said.

He said the general public needed to “get on board” because the homeless had nowhere else to go.

“I’ve seen a steep rise of desperate people living on the streets — it has doubled in the past two years,” Mr Ellis said.

“Just in the past two weeks, we have given 120 food parcels to new families in need.”

Designed with compassion

Sleepbus chief executive and founder, Simon Rowe, fitted out and delivered the bus to the beachside suburb of Maroochydore in September.

With million-dollar apartments lining the surrounding streets, he sat behind the wheel, tooting the horn and encouraged people to volunteer.

“I basically cut a giant hole in the side of the bus and ruined it,” Mr Rowe said.

The bus has 20 individual sleep pods with their own lockable door, toilet, bed light and electronics charging station.

“The side lifts up to allow people to be able to see in from a distance — it builds rapport,” Mr Rowe said.

He said the bus was pet friendly, had storage for belongings and CCTV surveillance.

“It’s about getting a quiet, safe night sleep,” he said.

“We have security cameras all around the outside of the bus.

“Everybody has an intercom and can talk to the caretaker if they want to leave in the middle of the night.”

Safe place to park needed

The Sleepbus service is designed to help women like Mez (surname withheld to protect privacy), who has been living in a van for a decade after falling on hard times.

She said she had been without a home for so long that she didn’t think about not having one anymore.

“I got a personal loan to buy my van and I’m paying that off,” Mez said.

“So, even if I wanted to, I still couldn’t afford rent money.”

Mez said she had observed more homeless women and children living in their cars in recent years.

“It’s not safe. There’s a lot more domestic violence women [victims] now,” she said.

She said people living in their cars needed a safe place to park.

“So, we can all group up, and we can all feel safe together,” she said.

“Being out in the street in your van, you’re still vulnerable.

“We need cover — out of the rain and storms — can someone help us with that?”

Call for volunteers

Sleepbus worker Sally Pickersgill said she liked giving back to the community.

She said her job was to settle guests in when they arrived to sleep on the bus.

“It’s not difficult at all,” she said.

“I make sure that they’re really comfortable and that they feel safe.

She said people were homeless for a number of reasons.

Everybody makes a better decision when they’re able to lay flat and have a good night’s sleep,” she said.

Ms Pickersgill said volunteering “changes your world for the better”.

“You could sit at home and watch the television for three hours … or you could come out here, connect and make a difference to people’s lives,” she said.

Volunteers of Pink Sleepbus require a blue card and are supported to attend to the specific needs of women and children.

Organisers said an operational date for sleepers would be announced as soon as sufficient volunteers were engaged.

Source: ABC News

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