THIS year's Ride Around The Lake on May 3 will be a family affair for Lighthouse Church senior leader Paul Bartlett, with three generations of his family taking part in the charity ride.
Mr Bartlett will be joined on the ride by his father Ted, 81, and children Jarrod, 22, and Sophie, 13.
The ride, now in its seventh year, is the annual fund-raiser for the Lighthouse Youth Initiative, which aims to break the cycle of homelessness many young people in the Illawarra find themselves in.
The Lighthouse Youth Initiative operates a 13-bed facility located at Yallah, but the church hopes to expand the facility in the near future.
"We've got a development application in at the moment to expand to a 32-bed facility, and the money we raise from the ride will be used as part of the capital for that development," Mr Bartlett said.
"At the moment we can only house 13 young people at a time and the issue of youth homelessness in the Illawarra is a big one. There's something like 1200 homeless people in the Illawarra and about half of them are young people aged 16 to 24."
While the Lighthouse facility provides food and shelter for the young people it works with, it aims to defeat youth homelessness in a more rounded way.
"We take a holistic approach to trying to break the cycle of homelessness," Lighthouse community services manager Josh Hammann said. "We do put a roof over them and food in their stomachs, but that's just the tip of what we do.
"While the young people are with us, we're also working with them to get them to a stage where they are ready to find employment and even get into the process of volunteering in the community so we really can take them out of that cycle."
Ted Bartlett, 81, who founded the Wollongong City Mission in the 1980s, is taking part in this year's ride.
"One of the things on my bucket list was that I was going to get into cycling, so I went out and bought a bike and this is a nice, flat ride and a great way to get into it.
"The other thing is that homelessness is a horrible thing; when you think about homelessness you think rock bottom.
"The young people that find themselves in that situation have no guidance, they likely have ill health, and without some outside help they're unlikely to get out of that cycle."
The Ride Around The Lake consists of two courses, a 40-kilometre loop around Lake Illawarra and a 10-kilometre family ride. Both start from Lakeside Park in Kanahooka.
For more information, visit ridearoundthelake.com.au.