The issue of homelessness has reared its ugly head at a time when families should be coming together with reports that an increasing number of Port Stephens residents are seeking emergency accommodation.
In the days prior to Christmas, the Examiner was notified of at least two incidences where persons were sleeping rough: the first in a makeshift tent in the Anna Bay bushland and the second in a vehicle near Taylors Beach.
Unfortunately, there is no crisis accommodation for homeless people in Port Stephens.
Nelson Bay’s Yacaaba Centre and the Raymond Terrace-based Family and Neighbourhood Services offer referrals and housing assistance.
In the June state budget, Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced an extra $61 million over four years to help the homeless, those who are sleeping rough and victims of domestic violence.
The Port’s Liberal state candidate Jaimie Abbott said the government was working hard to address the growing problem of homelessness.
“In 2018/19 more than $20 million will be allocated to 25 specialist homelessness services in the Hunter New England district, which are available to those sleeping rough, or at risk of homelessness,” she said.
“These services deliver a range of support including crisis and transitional accommodation, outreach with those sleeping rough, case management and links to education and training.
“There will be more than $825,000 spent on three service support funds in HNE in 2018/19 to help reduce homelessness and $1.5 million will be spent on services that support young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.”
State Labor MP Kate Washington sad that sadly, emergency accommodation options in Port Stephens were very limited, as were general social housing options.
“People can be waiting years to access social housing, and the lack of emergency options means vulnerable people often end up in places that are far from ideal,” she said.
“Staff at the Port Stephens Family and Neighbourhood Service work hard supporting vulnerable people and families, but they just don’t have the resources to meet the need.
“The government has twice refused to provide me information about public housing stock in Port Stephens. Clearly this government is not providing adequate housing options for vulnerable people.”
Pot Stephens Salvation Army Corps Officer Howard Koutnik said that homelessness was a significant issue across the nation and coastal communities like Port Stephens were not immune.
“Accommodation services for people experiencing homelessness are limited in Port Stephens with most of the government-funded services based in Newcastle,” Mr Koutnik said.
“There's no question that the need is great and we would definitely like to see additional accommodation services made available in the immediate Port Stephens community but until such time, we will continue to support the homeless through the supply of food hampers, personal hygiene packs and through referral to local housing services like Link to Home.”
Ann Fletcher, from the Early Intervention and Homelessness Program, said they received between 30 and 50 new referrals a month, predominantly from people seeking accommodation support.
“Unfortunately, there is no crisis accommodation in Port Stephens… we are funded to help prevent individuals from becoming homeless in the first place with a focus on an early intervention approach.”