Deana Castle, 45, of Lismore, knows firsthand how quickly life can take a turn for the worse. She was forced to turn to the Lismore Soup Kitchen for help after being left homeless.
Deana Castle, 45, of Lismore, knows firsthand how quickly life can take a turn for the worse. She was forced to turn to the Lismore Soup Kitchen for help after being left homeless. Jacklyn Wagner

$12m plan to avert homeless crisis

A $12 MILLION pledge to combat homelessness on the Northern Rivers has been described as a ‘blueprint for real action' by local social workers.

The State and Federal governments have promised $4 million a year for the next three years as part of the new North Coast Homelessness Action Plan.

The goal of the long-awaited plan is to reduce homelessness by seven per cent across NSW.

It also aims to cut the number of people sleeping rough by 25 per cent and reduce Aboriginal homelessness by a third.

Northern Rivers Social Development Council president, Tony Dreise, said the plan was a ‘blueprint for real action to address the homelessness crisis in our region'.

“Rates of homelessness on the North Coast are significantly higher than for the rest of the State,” he said. “In some areas the figures are astounding.

“For example, in Byron shire alone there were 365 homeless households during the last Census.”

NRSDC chief executive, Tony Davies, said the North Coast Homelessness Action Plan was a great start to solving the problem.

“There are 3200 homeless people on the North Coast,” he said.

“This plan will focus on some of the hidden homeless, like families who are at risk of losing their tenancies.

“We are finding that there are increasing numbers of families with children at risk of homelessness.

“They are people who are getting less work and therefore have less money coming in, but their rents keep going up.

“What we can do through this new plan is offer things like crisis assistance and budget counselling.

“In some cases people need just $1000 to get through that crisis time – it's generally only a small amount of money that they need.

“We don't want people to become another statistic.”

The new homelessness plan incorporates the North Coast Accommodation project, which will help people to establish and sustain a tenancy.

Service delivery will be integrated and improved.

By 2014, 1000 new social housing dwellings will be built.

Intensive case management will also help homeless people to identify goals, provide mental health services and reconnect young people with schools or other programs.

Youth homelessness is a big focus of the new plan.

This has pleased NRSDC's manager of delivery and client services, Brett Paradise, who is also the co-chairman of the Youth Accommodation Association.

“We know that the majority of older people who are homeless experienced their first episode of homelessness as a teenager,” he said.

“It is important to intervene early and provide proper support to prevent people from being entrenched in homelessness.”

The North Coast Homelessness Action Plan is one of 10 being implemented across the State.

Overall, the plans have three ‘strategic directions' – to ensure people never become homeless; to ensure homeless people don't become entrenched in the system; and to ensure people who have been homeless do not become homeless again.

Read more:

One in 20 lucky to get shelter



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