The state government has announced an increase of around $1 million in funding for homelessness services for northern NSW for the next financial year.
But the Northern Rivers Social Development Council (NRSDC) has queried whether the increase will merely replace reduced funding from the federal government.
Family and community services minister Pru Goward said yesterday that that $6.53 million has been allocated to the region.
‘For the first time in NSW, the distribution of around $136 million of the homelessness budget will be informed by key indicators of homelessness; including socio-economic disadvantage, drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence rates,’ Ms Goward said.
Tweed MP Geoff Provest said that 1,385 people were homeless in the north coast region as of the 2011 Census.
‘The importance of intervening early to prevent homelessness is critical. The cycle of homelessness needs to be broken early and well before people need temporary or emergency accommodation,’ he said.
NRSDC CEO Tony Davies welcomed the news.
‘It’s great to see some recognition that homelessness is a statewide problem – and it’s a particularly serious problem on the north coast of NSW,’ he told ABC local radio.
He added that up to 20 per cent of rough sleepers throughout the state are living between Grafton and the boarder.
But Mr Davies was also somewhat skeptical about prospect of future funding.
‘We’ve seen no commitment from the federal government to continue [their] funding. It might actually be that the state government boost is doing nothing more than picking up the gap left by the federal government.
Mr Provest said that from July 2014 homelessness services would be awarded following a tender process.
‘This approach will allow the NSW Government to reallocate available funding equitably across NSW,’ he said.
‘This will help slow the traditional drift of homeless people to the inner city and provide more regional support in Northern NSW to help homeless people back onto their feet and into stable housing,’ he added.
A service transition plan is being prepared, which the government says will ‘ensure a seamless transition to a reformed system, which will smooth the impact of change on local service systems, individual services, employees and, most importantly, current and future clients as a result of the redistribution of resources and recontracting’.