Jane Horvath: Westfield Local Heroes 2019

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Jane Horvath: Westfield Local Heroes 2019

Year-long sabbatical achieves deeply-rewarding results

Newtown Neighbourhood Centre
Enthusiastic. Driven. Passionate

When Jane Horvath took a year’s sabbatical from her career to volunteer full-time, she offered her services to Newtown Neighbourhood Centre (NNC).

She grabbed an opportunity to help set up the centre’s Newtopian Outreach, which uses the services of professional volunteers and trained 20 locals to engage with and support rough sleepers.

Thanks to Jane’s pioneering work, amazing community support and leadership from NNC, community harmony has improved, and fear and stigma have been reduced. Now, other similar projects are planned.

Jane says being a Newtopian Outreacher has been one of the most rewarding experiences of her life. “I have connected with my community of 20 years in a deeper and more authentic way.”

Jane says she is used to working behind the scenes and feels many emotions about being voted a Westfield Local Hero. Primarily, she sees it as a great reflection on what community can do, rather than necessarily celebrating her individual effort.

“It’s confirming that what we are doing for people who are experiencing homelessness is having a positive impact, and that’s really exciting.”

Jane’s colleagues respect her for prioritising the needs and interests of people experiencing homelessness wherever possible and including them in determining what response best serves their needs, rather than imposing solutions.

She also has strong values around the importance of acting and connecting locally, knowing one's neighbours and showing empathy towards those who are doing it tough.

Jane says it is not only people experiencing homelessness who benefit from the project. “The wider community can be distressed by the plight of people experiencing homelessness and feel powerless to assist or direct them to appropriate services.”

Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities. The top three finalists per Westfield centre are each awarded a $10,000 grant for their organisation. Newtown Neighbourhood Centre will use its grant to replicate Newtopian Outreach in other areas. This will increase Sydney’s capacity to assist people experiencing homelessness more effectively.

“As part of the Local Hero program, I’ve enjoyed getting out and walking the streets of Newtown having conversations to raise awareness of homelessness with businesses and the local community.”

For further information on the Westfield Local Heroes program, click here.

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