Unusual donor chips in as work begins on homeless refuge

WORK is well under way to convert a hotel into a haven for homeless people, as tradies work free of charge to complete the job within the next two months.

Members of Goodna Street Life are renovating the Weeroona Hotel to create "Helen's Haven", a refuge with 16 beds, and they hope to have it ready in six weeks.

Goodna Street Life vice-president Steve Purcell said work began on the overhaul over the Australia Day long weekend and volunteers and tradespeople had stepped up to help out.

Some tradies have given up their evenings to get the job done.

"We're trying to complete what is effectively a $150,000 fit-out with the small amount of funds the centre has," he said. "We've had a few financial donations but donations of time from carpenters, builders and electricians has been incredible."

Mr Purcell said squatters were already living on the site when they arrived.

"It's demonstrated how severely needed our service is in the area," he said.

Focus is on getting the motel rooms ready as quickly as possible and the plan is to open up a dry bar, restaurant, laundry, shower and toilet facilities.

The Pancake Manor in Brisbane donated the fit out of its old bar.

"We're working through those bigger jobs but we're on our way," Mr Purcell said.

"We're looking for appliances. There's number of items we're going to need to get our kitchen running.

"We've got tradespeople there to do the work but getting access to building materials is a bit of a challenge."

The charity has been told by Ipswich City Council it will need to obtain a material change of use and likely "require building conversions (and approvals) as well as plumbing approvals."

"Unfortunately, if this use was to commence without first obtaining these approvals, council would have no option but to undertake compliance action," a council spokesperson said.

A five-year lease has been secured on the Goodna hotel.

"The position we've taken is under existing use it has been a motel so we'll be operating as a motel if that's what is going to keep council happy," Mr Purcell said.

"I'll have to deal with state government then with the accreditation process and if that means I have to be accredited under the tourism act then so be it.

"We came into a building that had a disabled person living here and a person living with terminal cancer sleeping on a mouldy carpet. The bureaucracy comes second and the people come first."

Mr Purcell said there was a strong demand for the initiative.

"It would be great if there was more support from the state and council as opposed to putting up barriers and obstacles," he said.

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