A campaign to build a multi-million dollar complex to alleviate Maitland’s growing homelessness crisis has begun.
The Saint Vincent de Paul East Maitland Conference has been given a provisional grant of $3 million – from the SVDP council – to build or create a multi-purpose complex with a one-stop-shop approach for clients and the inclusion of medium and short-term accommodation. The building will be known as William’s Place.
“Homelessness is one of those niggling things that is always there, but it’s difficult to know where to start to try to do anything about it,” William’s Place project chairman John Hakes said.
“But what we’ve got at this stage is permission to continue our inquiries and the money was never queried because this is such an area of need.”
Earlier this year SVDP Lower Hunter and its social justice committee launched an investigation into homelessness in the region.
The process included consultations with 10 Maitland organisations including the Hunter Valley Men’s Crisis Support Inc, The Suicide Network Maitland, Community Health East Maitland, Maitland Neighbourhood Centre, Carrie’s Place (women’s and children’s refuge), the Department of Housing and a Maitland youth refuge.
Meetings with Housing NSW in Newcastle and Maitland MP Robyn Parker were also conducted.
“All the organisations we interviewed for the report were stretched to the hilt and, in some cases, were almost despairing,” SVDP social justice committee member Pam Tierney said.
“I didn’t know how big the problem was until I steeped myself in it.”
Ms Tierney said the committee hopes to initially build 10 units and will seek state and federal funding.
“What we can do will depend on how far the money will stretch; that’s what it comes down to but we expect to have a pretty decent proposition at the end of the day,” she said.
“But we also want to involve the community.
“People tend to feel a bit helpless when it comes to things like this and we are just an ordinary group of people, but an ordinary group of people can do a lot of good.”
As part of their research the committee learned that Carrie’s Place turns away 1000 women and children a year, while the Maitland Neighbourhood Centre sees about 14 rough sleepers a week.
“It has become quite evident that all of the different organisations see different levels of homelessness, but there doesn’t seem to be much done about it,” Mr Hakes said.
“But we’re here to make a start.”
About 105,000 people are homeless on any given night in Australia while in the Hunter up to 400 people - some as young as 12 - are homeless or sleeping rough.
The SVDP Lower Hunter Social Justice Group will host a cocktail party at the Maitland Regional Art Gallery on July 20, from 6pm to 8pm, to raise money and awareness of Maitland’s homelessness crisis. Tickets are $40. For more information contact Robert Moore on 4934 2905 or firstname.lastname@example.org