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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

State government must step in to save Safe Shelter Shoalhaven as housing crisis worsens

The vital Salt Shelter serving the Shoalhaven has closed its doors this week after five years of providing a service to the homeless. Peter Dover, the chief executive of Salt Care, a local church-led charity told the ABC that has run the shelter for the past five years, said funding for the service had run dry.

"It's been funded completely by community, businesses and individuals who have come together and see how important it is, but it's got to the point where we can't continue without government funding," Mr Dover said.

"We've spoken to all levels of government over the years, and they've promised this and promised that, but nothing has ever happened.

"We had to lay off 12 people last week and now it's got to the point where we have to close the shelter," told the ABC. Safe Shelter is the only place in Nowra that accepts walk-ins for the night; it provides a hot meal and a space for men, women, children and families who want to stay together. It provides beds, but also a wrap-around support service to help people find more permanent accommodation.

Eight thousand people have used the service so far, with 12-16 people sleeping there each night.

"If this closes permanently, we will start seeing groups of people congregating at areas like the showground and it could be a huge problem," Mr Dover said.

"We need this service because it's the only service that picks people up off the street and puts them into housing." Member for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips MP has called on the NSW Government to step in to save Safe Shelter Shoalhaven.

Safe Shelter Shoalhaven has been operating locally for five years, providing a safe place to sleep for over 850 families and individuals, but this week it has been forced to shut its doors due to a lack of support from the NSW Government.

With the South Coast facing an escalating housing crisis, local people cannot afford to lose a critical service such as this.

“The NSW Government has allowed our housing crisis to spiral out of control for far too long. It is well past time the state government took this issue seriously and stepped in to fund vital programmes such as this now,” Fiona Phillips said.

The Gilmore MP said every day her office receives calls for help from local people in desperate need. Local services are already at breaking point, and the loss of this service will be devastating for the local community.

“Allowing this shelter to close when we are at our highest ever need is absolutely shameful,” she said.

“Peter Dover and the Salt Care team do absolutely amazing work in our community, but they have filled a gap created by government for far too long.”

“We cannot afford to lose Safe Shelter Shoalhaven and I have written to the NSW Minister asking for urgent support to keep Safe Shelter Shoalhaven open,” Mrs Phillips said.


In my electorate on the New South Wales South Coast, we have been facing a regional housing crisis for years. Then came the bushfires, the floods and the pandemic. Make no mistake—this housing crisis is the new disaster. It needs immediate action and more temporary disaster accommodation. Let me explain why.

It is not okay for 50 families to be homeless at the Moruya North Head Campground. I hear stories each day of people coming into my office, pleading for help. Amy from Nowra is a single mother of seven children. She has exhausted all her emergency housing avenues, and now faces living on the streets because there are simply no three-bedroom houses available. My office has successfully gained her a nine-day emergency housing extension, but what then? All of our fabulous support services, like Salt Care community housing providers and the Homeless Hub, are working around the clock to help. Amy says that all she wants is a roof over their head, something we all deserve, and we are doing everything to help her.

There is the pregnant mother of two from Worrigee who has fled from domestic violence. She's applied for 50 private rentals and says that, because she has been honest about her situation, no-one will rent her a home. We've helped her access the Start Safely program and hope this will help.

Jade from Batehaven is in her late 60s. The owner of the house she called home for a decade asked her to leave so they could renovate. She ended up spending winter in her car, with her dog, because she couldn't find anywhere to live.

Anthony from Bomaderry is a young dad, engaged to his partner, and with two kids. He works full time in a supermarket but was on the cusp of homelessness. I wrote to the New South Wales housing minister and helped him secure private accommodation with a subsidy.

These are the heart-wrenching stories I am hearing every day. We are doing everything to help, but sometimes that is not enough. It's a cliche but it's true: there is no silver bullet for a decade of housing neglect.

In such a beautiful area like ours, there are a lot of people with holiday homes, and often they are empty most of the year. In a desperate bid to free up some housing quickly, the Mayor of the Eurobodalla Shire wrote to all their non-resident ratepayers, asking if they would rent their houses out to help ease housing pressures. The Mayor told the Member for Eden-Monaro and me recently about the fantastic response they received. They have had over 150 interested homeowners. Thirty homes have now re-entered the rental market, which is a great response, but it isn't enough.

I recently met with Peter from Salt Care. He has some fabulous ideas about how we can turn a further 500 vacant homes across the Eurobodalla and the Shoalhaven into long-term rental social and affordable homes. As part of the Collective Home Project, Salt will pay market rent, manage the maintenance and support the tenants, so that everyone can get what they need. Salt wants to work across all levels of government on this project, including incorporating the Eurobodalla Mayor's tiny homes idea. It is absolutely incredible to see innovative ideas coming from our community sector. That's what we need: everyone working together.

This week I will be talking with the Minister about that and seeing how we can help, but it's going to take time to address the systemic housing issues. We've started developing a National Housing and Homelessness Plan to guide our response. The government took another step last week, freeing up $575 million from the National Housing Infrastructure Facility, an underutilised program, to invest in social and affordable housing.

We want to support crisis and transitional housing options for women and children fleeing domestic violence. That's why I was proud to commit $1.5 million on the South Coast and Southern Highlands for additional crisis accommodation for women and children fleeing violence. We expect this will help as many as 135 women and children to find refuge and fund 13 workers to support 1,040 women. It's really important funding, and I know it will make a difference. We've got our Housing Australia Future Fund to create 30,000 social and affordable homes, including $30 million specifically allocated for housing and specialist support for veterans at risk or experiencing homelessness. All of this will be informed by the new National Housing Supply and Affordability Council. There is so much more work to be done. Housing is an incredibly complex issue, but we have started, we're working together and we will work hard to find solutions that will work for regional Australia.

NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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