Community Housing Ltd has been given more money to invest in housing rough sleepers in the Coffs Harbour region.
Community Housing Ltd has been given more money to invest in housing rough sleepers in the Coffs Harbour region.

‘Landmark’ announcement on rough sleeping

AS THE shift away from government run social services continues, one community housing provider has lauded a new funding program.

The NSW Government’s Together Home project will see $36.1 million invested in community housing to help rough sleepers not only find a bed, but reintegrate into the community.

Community Housing Ltd – one of the country’s biggest providers of community housing – will receive $1.6 million of that funding to put towards transitioning 24 rough sleepers into long term housing on the Mid-North Coast.

Areas of focus include Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Kempsey and Nambucca Heads.

CHL managing director Steve Bevington said the funding couldn’t have come at a more crucial time and was a significant step in breaking the cycle of homelessness in the region.

“This funding will allow CHL to prioritise housing and support to those at the hardest end of the homelessness cycle back into housing and community life,” he said.

“In the last two months alone, CHL has assisted 28 rough sleepers in the region with one third of those offered long term secure housing with CHL while others were offered private rental and temporary accommodation options.”

READ MORE: REVEALED: Extent of homelessness in Coffs Harbour

Mr Bevington explained the origins of the “landmark” investment lay in the Government’s 2019 commitment to halve the rate of homelessness by 2025.

Since then investment had gathered pace and the recent coronavirus pandemic had brought to light the community health implications of those sleeping rough.

“I think what has been going on in Australia for many years has been an under-investment in the hardest end of the housing spectrum – the housing of people who sleep rough,” he said.

“Although all governments have tried to house (rough sleepers) temporarily, NSW is the first one to take on the commitment and try and resolve the problem.”

Coffs Harbour MP Gurmesh Singh said the Together Home projectwouldhelp people maintain their tenancy, improve their health and wellbeing and move towards greater community participation.

“This initiative will change lives for the better, by supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our community on the pathway to independence,” he said.

READ MORE: REVEALED: $8.6m social housing plans for Coffs

In 2016, the Baird Government started a move away from social housing after effectively privatising the sector with a view to encouraging more modern developments with a mix of social and private housing.

In Coffs Harbour the entire process, from head-leasing properties to assisting clients, is the duty of CHL and Mission Australia and Mr Bevington said there had been a “big shift” in the sector in recent years.

He said not-for-profits like CHL were in a position to be more “nimble” than governments when trying to achieve positive outcomes for the community.

“If you have a local organisation which is very targeted in its approach and can relate on an equal basis with other organisations that provide specialist services, it is a very efficient and collaborative mechanism,” he said.

“You can have very localised circumstances which we can adjust our services to, and have a different policy setting per region.

“Our job is to do the best for the community to assist the creation of a more balanced society by focusing on the people at the hardest end.”