Port Stephens Homelessness Stakeholders Advisory Group meets to discuss the growing concern of homelessness in region

The Port Stephens Homelessness Stakeholder Advisory Group.

THE inaugural meeting of Port Stephens Homelessness Stakeholders Advisory Group was held in Raymond Terrace on Wednesday 26 April.

The group, spearheaded by Port Stephens Councillor Leah Anderson, seeks to “to provide Council with strategic advice on homelessness and related issues that can be dealt with at a Local Government Level”.

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It was formed in response to a motion put forward to Port Stephens Council by Cr Anderson in August 2022 that sought more Council involvement in addressing the issue of homelessness in Port Stephens.

It is estimated that there are well over 120,000 people experiencing homelessness in Australia, an increase of more than five percent since 2016.

In Port Stephens current data indicates that there are 421 people without secure housing, though Cr Anderson believes that number is likely higher.

While homelessness includes those members of the community with no accommodation, forced to ‘sleep rough’ and completely reliant on public facilities, the term also encompasses individuals or families who experience long term dislocation from a permanent residence.

In such cases people are constantly moving from one temporary accommodation to another, or ‘couch surfing’ with friends and family while they continue to apply for homes.

At present the expected waiting period for social housing in the area is two to three years.

“We need to work together as a community, to stop this rapidly increasing number of homeless people,” Cr Anderson said.

The Advisory Group will meet twice annually to provide input and guidance so that the Council can best determine where to direct services as a matter of priority.

The first meeting was attended by representatives of several Port Stephens community service groups including Hume Community Housing, the Wahroonga Aboriginal Corporation, Port Stephens Family and Neighbourhood Services, the Hunter Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service, the Yacaaba Centre and Hope Cottage Nelson Bay.

Also in attendance were Port Stephens MP Kate Washington, Minister for Families and Communities and Minister for Disability Inclusion, and Meryl Swanson, Member for Patterson.

The meeting was chaired by Cr Anderson.

This first meeting established some key local priorities and areas for action including safe public places for people sleeping rough, better utilisation of existing housing/facilities, raising awareness, exploring opportunities to work with real estate agents and providing better access to allied health services – acknowledging complex mental and physical health issues that are alongside homelessness.

“At the end of the day, this issue needs to be highlighted, our community needs to be aware, and we need to all work together to bring solutions to the table,” Cr Anderson said.

By Lindsay HALL

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