Homelessness agencies and Labor state MPs are requesting the former Stockton Centre be re-opened as “crisis housing” to alleviate the Hunter’s current woes.
Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness Rose Jackson MLC this week joined Newcastle local member Tim Crakanthorp and Port Stephens counterpart Kate Washington, as well as community representatives, in calling for the site to be temporarily repurposed as emergency accommodation.
Their pleas have also received support from specialist services Nova for Women and Children and Jenny’s Place, along with the Hunter Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service.
“To have a facility like the Stockton Centre sitting vacant in the middle of a housing crisis is scandalous,” Ms Jackson said.
“Every day I am hearing the worst stories about the housing stress of people in our communities – and it is clear what the government is doing just isn’t working.
“The Minister must urgently investigate this option, which would provide additional emergency accommodation options to the people of Newcastle and the Hunter.”
Although asbestos is a major concern at the location, the Stockton Centre boasts eight renovated houses and two units.
And, while Mr Crakanthorp has previously raised this matter with the NSW Government, he’s constantly stonewalled or had his requests rebuffed.
The facility is owned by the Department of Communities and Justice, the same sector tasked with assisting those experiencing homelessness in the state.
“A number of services have expressed an interest in using the site, which has sat vacant for almost two years while a plan for its future reuse is developed,” Mr Crakanthorp said.
“We are at a crisis point and we urgently need emergency accommodation.
“But, we have this facility sitting here vacant.
“Let’s use it to help the most vulnerable in our community.
“This asset belongs to the community, not some Minister in Sydney who says it’s all too hard.”
Mr Crakanthorp said we needed “less talk and more action” when it came to addressing the housing crisis.
“Every week I am dealing with people experiencing homelessness,” he explained.
“They are struggling to find accommodation.
“While this is only a temporary solution, it’s one that is desperately needed right now to get us through this crisis.”
With Hunter groups also stretched to capacity, due to the current housing woes in the region, specialist homelessness services are routinely shunning women and children who are then forced to sleep in cars or tents.
“All of our refuges are full,” Nova for Women and Children CEO Kelly Hansen said.
“Sadly, we are turning away women and children to sleep in their cars or worse.
“We need immediate solutions now.
“Opening up additional temporary emergency accommodation would make a significant difference in our work.”