THE NSW opposition has called on the government to reverse its decision and reinstate funding to the Shoalhaven Youth Accommodation in Nowra.
Shadow Minister for Housing Sophie Cotsis visited the Shoalhaven with Labor candidates for South Coast Fiona Phillips and Kiama Glenn Kolomeitz, meeting with staff and former clients of the service, which had its funding cut after 30 years of operation.
Ms Cotsis said it was a “disgrace” and a “heartless decision” to cut funding to a service that provided help for homeless youth.
“We visited Shoalhaven Youth Accommodation to see first-hand the impact of NSW Liberal government budget cuts which may see this service close,” she said.
“SYA is just one of more than 80 services the government will no longer fund, effectively shutting them down.
“On budget day Mike Baird restated his priority to help the vulnerable in our community. But now we see what that really means – the closure of community services that have been helping vulnerable people for decades.
“Most of the cuts are for specialist services, such as domestic violence, youth, mental illness or drug and alcohol dependence.
“Instead, people will need to rely on already stretched generalist services, which may not be appropriate.
“The Liberals’ homelessness policy is an absolute disaster.
“Homelessness is an issue for us all, with real community safety and health implications.
“The NSW Liberal government should understand the value of these services and fund them properly.
“They should reverse these cuts so Shoalhaven Youth Accommodation can keep operating.”
She also asked why the two local MPs, Shelley Hancock and Gareth Ward, weren’t fighting for their local service.
“Where are the two local MPs on this issue?” she said.
“Why aren’t they fighting for this service?”
Mrs Phillips said it was beyond belief the government would close SYA.
“I’m appalled the Member for South Coast has not even bothered to talk with affected staff and clients; staff that will lose their jobs and clients that will lose their accommodation,” she said.
She also questioned why Shoalhaven City Council had remained silent on the SYA cuts?
“While it was a state decision this has the potential to become a real local issue,” she said.
“Council is supposed to be the voice for the people, why haven’t they said anything about these cuts?
“Losing nine youth accommodation beds means nine young people who have nowhere to live. Once they start living under the bridges it will become a local issue.
“This decision will destroy the social cohesion of the local community.”
Mr Kolomeitz said it was estimated more than 150 people in the Shoalhaven sleep rough every night.
“And that number is growing,” he said.
“Now is the time to be investing more, not less in homelessness accommodation and support services.”