Concerned community members to host rally to raise awareness of Port Stephens homelessness crisis

IN Australia, there are over 116,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night.

Unfortunately, this issue affects local residents and in 2020, the number of homeless people in Port Stephens tripled from the previous twelve months.

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Two years later, the figure is even worse with support services at their breaking point and staff struggling to provide accommodation.

In July this year, State MP Kate Washington, alongside the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness Rose Jackson, held a roundtable discussion to tackle the growing issue of homelessness in Port Stephens.

More than fifteen local groups attended the roundtable discussion, with issues discussed included the lack of social housing, rapidly rising cost of private rentals causing vulnerable people to fend for themselves and even forcing double income families onto the street due to the lack of affordable housing.

One of the solutions put forward from the round table was the possibility of reopening Tomaree Lodge and the Stockton Centre as temporary accommodation to assist people who have found themselves without a roof over their head.

Ms Washington since has repeatedly written to the NSW Government and to the Minister for Families and Communities Natasha Maclaren-Jones seeking a response to her request to reopen Tomaree Lodge and the Stockton Centre as temporary accommodation.

Ms Washington’s response from the Government was a rejection of the idea due to “issues with plumbing on site”.

Community members have made the decision following this response, to rally together and highlight Port Stephens’ homelessness crisis.

Organiser Melissa Pond says the community can no longer accept excuses from the Government and Ministers who do not understand the severity of the issue.

“We cannot accept that a ‘plumbing problem’ is keeping homeless people from having a clean and dry roof over their heads,” she said.

“It’s time to get together as one to bring this matter out into the open, to fight for our own and to demand someone be done to better support our vulnerable members in the community.”

The Department of Communities and Justice said the expected waiting times for social housing applicants in Port Stephens anywhere from over ten years and over.

Ms Pond says the community will rally together, asking for the State Government to sit down and meet with community leaders and the State Member to discuss options to address the homelessness crisis in Port Stephens.

“We view the options of utilising Tomaree Lodge and the Stockton Centre as viable options to provide temporary accommodation and we believe that if we can sensibly discuss this then we may be able to come to some sort of resolution to the issues outlined by the Government in budget estimates,” Ms Pond said.

The rally will be held on Saturday 24 September at 10am, with participants meeting in the car park near Tomaree Lodge at the end of Shoal Bay Road, Shoal Bay.


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