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Byron Shire
April 12, 2024

Byron homeless service receives one off funding 

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The NSW Labor government has come good with their promise to find emergency funding for Byron’s Fletcher Street Cottage (the Cottage), yet it will not prevent the service from reducing its services, say management. The vital homeless hub assists the growing number of homeless people in Byron Shire, the shire with the highest homelessness rate in the state. 

Minister for Homelessness, Rose Jackson (NSW Labor), said in a statement last week, ‘The one-off funding [of $125,000] is an initial step to strengthen the homelessness response in Byron and is in addition to the government’s 2023-24 $11 million investment for homelessness services in Northern NSW, which covers the LGAs of Ballina, Byron Shire, Clarence Valley, Kyogle, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Tweed’.

Federal Greens candidate, Mandy Nolan, says the funding falls short of the funds the Cottage needs to keep their doors open five days a week.

She said, ‘I’m backing [Greens] state MP Tamara Smith’s calls for the federal government to come to the table with funding for the Cottage, so they can continue to support the most vulnerable’. 

Local federal MP, Justine Elliot (Labor), told her social media followers that it’s the first time a NSW government has ever provided funding for this service. 

Byron Community Centre General Manager Louise O’Connell welcomed the funds and told The Echo, ‘I don’t know how they allocated those funds, but I’m just so grateful that we can have some more funding to help our frontline workers provide support to people experiencing homelessness, living in cars, couch surfing, sleeping rough’.

The funding is 12.5 per cent of the million dollars Ms O’Connell says the hub is expected to cost to run for another year.

‘We recently did a fundraising campaign and our wonderful community donated $400,000,’ Ms O’Connell says. 

Ms O’Connell says there is still a funding gap of over $400,000.

‘Unfortunately, from October 23, we’re reducing to four days a week’.

Recurrent funding obstacles, expense

Ms O’Connell says the Cottage operators can apply for recurrent funding, but must carry out a daunting ‘ASES’ red-tape exercise to meet requirements.

The Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) announced at the end of August that homelessness providers must have accreditation with one of four programs by the end of June next year to be eligible for state funding.

The Australian Service Excellence Standards is the first listed and comes from South Australia’s Department of Human Services.

Housing providers such as Social Futures already have ASES accreditation, Ms O’Connell says, but the Cottage is a newer service, having only been in operation 18 months.

Ms O’Connell says the accreditation process takes 12 months, ‘let alone all the preparation work’.

‘I’ve got to take out resources to actually do this accreditation process,’ she says.

The DCJ says it has grants of $16,000 per organisation available for first-time accreditation applicants with less than $5 million revenue.

Help needed

Anyone wanting to donate time or money to the Cottage via the community centre is welcome, Ms O’Connell says.

‘We’ve got one patron who donates $7 a week and that goes to a breakfast for somebody,’ she says, ‘we’re always looking for volunteers to help with laundry, with cooking, with cleaning, etc’. 

But while she appreciates continued community support, Ms O’Connell says ‘long-term sustainable funding’ is needed so Cottage staff can focus on helping people, ‘rather than me spending my time lobbying government and begging for money on the street’.

Assertive Outreach program announced

Additional to the one-off funds, Minister for Homelessness Rose Jackson announced Byron Shire would have its own Assertive Outreach program, something that is already in place in Tweed Shire. 

It follows on from a request by Byron Shire Council to establish one.

The Echo asked the DCJ what its budget will be, and how many staff would be employed for the Assertive Outreach Program for Byron Shire, and whether it is comparable to the Tweed Assertive Outreach program. 

A breakdown was also sought regarding the ‘government’s 2023–24 $11 million investment for homelessness services in Northern NSW’.

No budget supplied

A DCJ spokesperson replied, ‘The $11 million funding allocated in 2023/24 in Northern NSW for Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) [is] to be delivered by lead providers Social Futures Ltd and Third Sector Australia Ltd t/a Momentum Collective. This covers the LGAs of Ballina, Byron, Clarence Valley, Kyogle, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Tweed’.

‘DCJ is currently working towards the development of an Assertive Outreach program in the Byron Shire providing a multidisciplinary team including specialist homelessness services caseworkers and health worker to deliver intensive case management and supports to people sleeping rough’.

Minister for Homelessness Rose Jackson’s media release reads, ‘The devastation from the Northern NSW floods and population increase since Covid-19 have squeezed housing availability in the Byron Shire LGA.

‘In the 2023 street count, 300 people were counted sleeping rough in the Byron Shire LGA, accounting for the largest group in the state’.

She said, ‘We acknowledge Northern NSW is really feeling the pinch from housing supply and cost of living pressures and while we work to address these challenges, this funding will ensure this vital service can continue to provide much needed help for the community’.

‘Extending our Assertive Outreach team in the region is a crucial part of our work to ensure experiences of homelessness are rare, brief and not repeated. 

‘This will take time, as we know there is a lot of work to be done’.

Tamara Smith MP, Member for Ballina (Greens) said, ‘I welcome the NSW minister’s decision to support the Fletcher Street Cottage as they get ready to apply for ongoing funding’. 

‘This result is a testament to the advocacy of the manager and staff of the Byron Community Centre, and members of our community’.

Anyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness can contact Link2home on 1800 152 152. 

Support is available 24–7, every day of the year.

♦ The Echo has previously asked Ms Jackson whether her office, or any department, is considering creating what is done in Qld, ‘which is to establish emergency zones for those unable to find a home to be safe, with facilities?’ A reply will be published if supplied..

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    • How’s the Justine going with fixing the Flood Victims???

      NSW Govt Giving $125,000 is all very nice but Fletcher Street Cottage is still short some $400,00 funding mentioned in article.
      When will our governments get serious .

  1. Would be interested in the Echo in getting the Community Asoc’s. Fletcher street budget. Having been involved in the set up of the original Fletcher st homeless drop in centre that was entirely funded by St Vinies and the Salvos with the Community Centre paying for electricity, at a far lower cost than $M1 per year, and noting that the Community Centre is not going for funding for the self financed Liberation Larder, that operates from the back of the Community Centre with free food, but who still pays the Community Centre to use the space. With a strong volunteer crew it is difficult to see how the new Fletcher St Centre costs $20,000 a week to run (the entire operations of the Community Centre is run on just over their $M1 annual income)


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