THE death of a 44-year-old woman on the banks of Bomaderry Creek over the weekend highlights homelessness in the Shoalhaven.
“Shoalhaven should hang its head in shame that something like this has taken place,” said Shoalhaven Youth Accommodation manager Kerri Snowden.
The woman was found at a makeshift camp on the northern side of Bomaderry Oval, overlooking Bomaderry Creek, around 500 metres south from the Bomaderry Railway Station.
With funding cut to at least 80 organisations in the Going Home Staying Home tender reform, Ms Snowden said instances like this would only become more common.
Shoalhaven Youth Accommodation and Shoalhaven Women’s Refuge both missed out on funding under the state government’s recent reform.
“This woman’s death is tragic,” Ms Snowden said.
“What a sad, lonely death. They are out there at risk.
“On any night in the Shoalhaven we have 150 people sleeping rough, either outside or couch surfing, just staying with friends.
“The last week would have been very tough, it’s been bitterly cold.”
She said the first her organisation heard of the woman’s plight were reports of her death.
“If we had known she was over there we would have gone to find her and offer her assistance,” she said.
“Someone must have seen her living there or knew about her.
“Did anyone contact housing or other services to see if we could provide her with help?
“Agencies can’t identify people and then help them if we are unaware of them.
“Shoalhaven needs to hang is head in shame, this sort of thing shouldn’t be happening.
“Unfortunately there will be more and more people, especially young people, forced to live rough.
“We are among 80 services that have lost funding in this reform – our nine youth beds in the Shoalhaven are gone. They were all full, what do those young people do now?
“And once you lose services you won’t get them back.
“As a society we need to treat these people with respect, we don’t know the circumstances that led to their homelessness.
“People need to remember ‘There but for the grace of God go I’.”
Police said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the woman’s death, who was discovered on Sunday afternoon.
It is believed the 44-year-old woman had 10 children and had local connections.
A post mortem is being conducted at the Glebe Morgue to determine the cause of death and a report is being prepared for the Coroner.
Event brings issue into focus
By ROBERT CRAWFORD
THE inaugural Sleep Out Shoalhaven, or SOS, on Saturday, August 9 will focus on the issue of homelessness in the Shoalhaven.
Interest in the event is growing and a website has been established at www.sleepoutshoalhaven.com.au for more information or you can follow the event on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sleepout
It is estimated around 150 people sleep rough in the Shoalhaven each night – they can be homeless people sleeping outside or in whatever shelter they can find, or others having to sleep in cars or crashing on friends’ lounges or floors.
SOS will be held on the lawns of the Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre and everyone is welcome to be involved.
The event is the brainchild of Elite Energy director Mark Emerton, who said SOS has the ability to be another huge community event like the cancer fund-raiser Shoalhaven Relay For Life.
For its inaugural event, SOS will back three local organisations – All Saints Community Care, John Purcell House and CareSouth Youth Accommodation.
“I’d love to have 500 people camping out on the front lawn of the entertainment centre,” Mr Emerton said.
“There will be no tents – it will be sleeping mats on the ground, sleeping bags, swags, or blankets.
“We will have cardboard for sale on the night that people can purchase to try to make a shelter with.”
He said his aim was to raise between $10,000 and $20,000.
SOS will start at 4pm August 9 and into the evening will feature entertainment, live music and an outdoor movie screening.
Donations are encouraged to take part in the event – $10 for an individual child, $20 an individual adult of $50 a family.
Community groups, sporting clubs, schools or groups of friends can take part for $100 (one to five members) or $200 (six-plus members).
Local business can also get involved by sponsoring the event, with packages available ranging from $250 up to $1000.
Anyone keen to get involved in the project should contact Mark Emerton on 0413 765 248.