AS Christmas draws near the Illawarra Family Referral Service (IFRS) run by Barnardos South Coast has encouraged families with children under 18 who are finding it tough to get in touch.
The IFRS offers free advice, support and referral for families with children and young people.
The service was established to ensure a challenging situation facing a family is dealt with before it reaches a crisis.
The Illawarra Family Referral Service can connect families in need to services that will address their issues with the aim of providing a safe environment for any children involved.
Alana and Ricardo Dennison Pereira and their three-year-old boy Mario are one family who had their life turned around recently.
They will have a roof over their head this Christmas thanks to the IFRS in Nowra.
The couple left their home in Portugal two years ago in the hope that in Australia they could give their young son a better life.
Mrs Dennison Pereira was born in Australia but moved to Portugal when she was three years old.
Her son is now that same age and it was due to the risk of Mario becoming homeless that the IFRS stepped in.
“Life was very bad in Portugal,” Mrs Dennison Pereira said.
“We moved to Australia, where I still had citizenship, and we settled in Sydney.”
However the cost of living and a family breakdown left the young family fending for themselves with little more than the clothes they were wearing.
Mr Dennison Pereira is a qualified chef, however he had not yet gained citizenship and could not work.
After a weekend visit to the Shoalhaven they decided to leave Sydney.
They managed to pay rent in a house at Sussex Inlet with their savings for a short time.
After a visit to Housing NSW, the IFRS in Nowra was alerted to the risk of Mario becoming homeless.
Illawarra Family Referral Worker Renee Leslie began connecting the family to local support services.
“Housing placed them temporarily in a caravan park until we found a suitable house for them,” she said.
“The Salvation Army helped out with beds and furniture, the IFRS purchased a washing machine and fridge, and Mario is booked into Good Start Early Learning next year.
“This could have been a young family who ended up homeless,” she said.
“For the IFRS it’s about the safety of the child and by making the family safe we have contributed to the child’s safety.”
To contact the IFRS, phone 1800 663 863 Monday to Friday between 8am and 6pm.