After running homelessness services for 30 years, two providers have lost out in a NSW government shakeup
FRIDAY, June 13 turned out to be a black day for two long-time local service providers, with Shoalhaven Youth Accommodation and the Shoalhaven Women’s Refuge both missing out on funding under the state government’s Going Home Staying Home tender reform.
“What do we do now?” said a clearly devastated Shoalhaven Youth Accommodation manager Kerri Snowden.
“What do we do with the young people we currently have in accommodation?”
Both organisations have been operating in the local area for 30 years.
The women’s refuge tender has been awarded to the Illawarra Women’s Homelessness and Domestic and Family Violence Support Service, while the youth accommodation tender has gone to CareSouth.
Ms Snowden, who has been with the service since its beginning, said she was almost too emotional to talk about the decision.
“I’m devastated. Angry. At a loss. There have certainly been lots of tears,” she said.
The state government’s decision will see the nine beds and accommodation run by the service move to the family tender, resulting in fewer beds for youth homelessness in the Shoalhaven.
“The big operations are definitely the big winners,” she said.
“There is no way our clients would be able to afford private rental and with the federal government’s decision to reduce benefits and with the lack of employment, training and transport opportunities in the Shoalhaven, the future looks grim.
“Many of our clients can’t go home. It was a nice philosophy but it won’t work.
“The amount of job losses across the sector around the state during this reform has been merciless.”
She said the tendering process was not fair.
“We have asked numerous questions through the whole process but have been given no answers,” she said.
“We have five full-time staff, a couple of them single mothers. What are they going to do?”
Chairman June Baker was more to the point saying it was a “right cockup”.
“It’s a kick in the guts,” she said.
“It appears most of the tenders have gone to big organisations, which have large infrastructure around them. The little groups are gone.
“We won’t be going down without a fight.”
She was disappointed with state MPs Shelley Hancock and Gareth Ward, saying “they should have fought harder for local services”.
“The City of Shoalhaven is the loser here,” she said.
Manager of Shoalhaven Women’s Rosa Refuge Michelle Miran was “absolutely shattered”.
“We have six staff here who don’t know what the future holds for them,” she said.
“But they are committed to continue to support their clients, who are basically women fleeing domestic violence and homeless and they will do that until the new provider takes over.
“Our only relief is at least the service will be delivered by an organisation which carries the same philosophies we’ve always had, of protecting the wellbeing of women and children.”
There are only six refuges between Wollongong and the Victorian border catering for women, with the Nowra operation the only one that can accommodate a woman with up to six children.
She said the tender process was “botched”.
“The state government virtually set collaborative partners against each other,” she said.
“There has never been any intensive one-to-one consultation with the Department of Housing, personnel and the managers of the various services.
“They made all their decisions based on what they’ve read, without having any local knowledge and I doubt they have any of that.
“This whole process was supposed to be resolved on April 29, then it was delayed to the middle of May and put back again until June and then announced Friday morning.
“The first we heard about the decision was when I received a call from a fellow provider at 8.30am [on Friday] and 15 minutes later heard from the director of Housing NSW informing us we hadn’t been successful.
“At that point I just burst into tears.”
The refuge can cater for five families at any one time and often has up to 20 people on a waiting list.
“The federal and state government are delusional about vulnerable people - they don’t understand it.”