Christmas lunch a poor substitute for shelter: mayor

THE RETURN of a popular Christmas luncheon would be a band-aid solution to the bigger problem of the city's homelessness, the mayor says.

Cr Mathew Dickerson said the joyful season of Christmas highlighted homelessness and "taking care of one day doesn't solve the problem".

"The reality is some people struggle to find somewhere to sleep 365 days a year," he said.

A woman known to the Daily Liberal reported seeing a number of homeless people on her early morning walk on the riverbank behind Centro Dubbo.

She said one person was in a sleeping bag with a beanie covering his head on the grass and three green recycled shopping bags filled with his possessions were laying beside him.

The number of homeless people increased daily and she was saddened to see it happening especially during the festive season.

The Christmas 4U community lunch which successfully ran for six years was cancelled in 2007.

Organiser, Reverend Chris Pope, said people from all walks of life gathered for festive food, fellowship and entertainment but as numbers grew over the years, so did the problems.

"People started complaining about the transport arrangements, the food or the gifts they received," Reverend Pope said.

Some produced plastic shopping bags at the end of the celebration and started loading up large quantities of unopened canned drinks and other items.

"Creating that sort of unhealthy behaviour and feeding a culture of dependency is not a good thing," he said.

"Concerns have also been raised that the community lunch has caused people to be blind to the real issue of individuals and families opening their homes to people at Christmas and throughout the year.''

Reverend Pope earlier said the lunch met an enormous need, not just for those living in poverty or involved in dysfunctional relationships but for all people who end up sad and alone at Christmas.

"Whatever the reason people shouldn't be sad, alone or going without on Christmas Day," he said.

Cr Dickerson said the core of the homelessness problem had to be properly addressed.

"If you tell a homeless person do you want a scrumptious lunch on Christmas Day with a big turkey and a big bottle of wine or somewhere to sleep each night, I think he will pick a place where he can sleep," he said.

The Dubbo City Council was doing all in its power to address the problem of homelessness but it was primarily a state and federal issue, he said. Cr Dickerson admitted housing affordability was difficult in the city and the council tried to work with different covenants to ease the pain.

"The council is limited in what it can do but we are doing our part," he said.

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