AS concerning statistics show a 37 per cent increase in homelessness rates across New South Wales comes the news another crisis accommodation provider is now operating in the Nowra region.
The statistics came from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and a group called Dignity is ready to help ease the local homelessness situation.
On Census night, in 2016, 279 people in the Shoalhaven said they were homeless, compared to 224 in 2011 and Dignity coming to the area is most welcome.
Dignity is a not for profit organisation and its aim is to support people experiencing or at risk of homelessness by providing food, shelter, clothing, advocacy and education.
Dignity Chief Executive Officer, Suzanne Hopman, said the homeless rate in the Shoalhaven and other areas in New South Wales would be higher than reported.
She said many people who are homeless do not reach out to government or other services and actively hide the fact that they have no safe place to live.
“Some feel ashamed or are fearful that their children will be removed from them and placed into foster care,” she said.
You can’t see them or identify them as homeless, they look no different to you or to me. These people are the “hidden homeless” that are not counted.- Suzanne Hopman
“We have known people who have slept in trains, in their cars or tents in remote areas for many months without telling family, friends or services.
“You can’t see them or identify them as homeless, they look no different to you or to me. These people are the “hidden homeless” that are not counted.”
Dignity has set up a five-bedroom facility for men in the Nowra area, has another facility for women and children and its third ‘flexi’ house will mostly be used for families but can be used to home single people.
The five bedroom facility for men was set up this week and Dignity Operations Manager Gabrielle McPherson said they simply want to help people.
“We understand there is a big need down here and homeless people congregate around the Nowra Showground,” Ms McPherson said.
“The need is for a men’s house, particularly in the winter, and single males have nowhere to go.”
If someone has a mental health issue or fleeing domestic violence the Dignity team refers them to the proper agencies.
“We are literally a temporary accommodation provider with support staff,” Ms McPherson said.
Department of Family and Community Services, (FACS) provides the funds for people to stay with Dignity.
Under FACS terms people can stay in the facility for 28 days.
Ms McPherson said in general people only stay in their properties for a maximum of two weeks and she added they had a good success rate of helping people get private accommodation.
“We are in that crisis space and it’s just easy to harness that energy while people are in crisis and say now is the time to get out there and start applying and viewing properties while we work with them,” the operations manager said.
Dignity helps people find pathways ways towards getting accommodation.
“One of our pillars is advocacy and we work closely with the FACS housing teams,” Ms McPherson said.
“We don't want to reinvent the wheel and we will work with the beautiful local experts.”
They have been in contact with Shoalhaven Homeless Hub and Supported Accommodation and Homelessness Services Shoalhaven Illawarra and will continue to work with them and other groups.
Dignity came to the Shoalhaven after FACS identified that temporary accommodation tended to be budget motel accommodation with limited outcomes.
“The idea is that there needs to be an outcome and some support, not just shoving them in a motel or caravan park,” Ms McPherson.
Dignity’s volunteer and donations coordinator Sherin Fishwick plans to set up a third flexi/plan facility.
We don't want to reinvent the wheel and we will work with the beautiful local experts.- Gabrielle McPherson
Mrs Fishwick said sometimes a family will be evicted and will be in need of emergency housing which is why they will set up in the group’s third facility.
If the third property is not being used for families it could be used to house more men, particularly in winter.
Clients come to Dignity after going through FACS first.
They have on-site support workers but staff don’t stay overnight .
“It’s empowering for people to cope in share accommodation and to make their own decisions,” Ms McPherson.
Ms McPherson said they were about helping people “get back on their own two feet”.
However, Dignity staff are on call.
People under the influence of drugs or alcohol can’t stay at their properties.
Dignity also has a team of volunteers who help with making meals and raising funds. Volunteers cook up the meals in their own homes, which are frozen and distributed.
You are a mother with several children and have been just kicked out of your home.
You need assistance and the team from Dignity comes along.
They take you into a home, you are give a nice room to sleep in and on the bed is a comfort pack for you.
You might be a single man and been on the streets and are also in need of help.
Dignity will give up somewhere to stay, home cooked meals and brand new clothes to wear.
The group believes everyone is entitled to dignity.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.