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Group wants to keep people safe

Published in Milton Ulladulla Times June 17, 2020 by Damien McGill

Scratch away at the surface and you will find even the Ulladulla district has a homelessness issue. It could be that person walking around town with a lot of bags or someone sitting near the harbour all day.

To support vulnerable people by relieving poverty, social isolation and addressing issues in the local community, a group of people have formed Safe Waters Community Care Inc. Safe Waters wants to give homeless people somewhere to stay.

Group founder, Sarah Date, explained what Safe Waters is all about and talks about their search for a suitable building.

She said representatives from local churches have indicated they are welling to help and now all the group needs is an actual building. "We want something close to town and accessible to other services" Sarah said.

A couple of churches in Ulladulla thought they had suitable buildings to use this winter but they ended being unsuitable for various reasons, including the existing events/night programs they were running.

"The church building was only going to be temporary for this winter so we could get a feel for how many homeless people there are in the area" Sarah said.

The model the group was going to follow was based on a temporary homeless shelter being set up in Nowra's Wesley Centre, which led to the permanent Safe Shelter Shoalhaven hostel being established. The group is still trying to get something temporary up for this winter but time may be against them.

"The goal is to have a more permanent building for the long term" Sarah said. "We would also do a short term solution if someone contacts us and says 'our building is sitting empty all night - you are welcome to come in and use it'. "We are ready to go and we have got 35 volunteers. The organisation is there, we are a registered charity, the volunteers are ready and all we need is a roof over our heads." Sarah has worked for homelessness services in the past and she knows a place like Ulladulla is not immune when it comes to people having nowhere to live. "There definitely is a homelessness issue in Ulladulla" she said. Sarah said the issue was 'a hidden one' with many people couch surfing, for example, and people coming out of foster care only to find they have nowhere to live. "Homelessness here is not as in your face as it is in somewhere like Nowra where you can see the problem and see the people on the streets or under the bridge" she said.

People may also be sleeping on a beach, out in the bush or in a car. "Basically all we need is a building - any building and we will make it work" she said.

"In winter it's horrible and we really want to provide people with some warmth and food". The Safe Waters founder said a four-bedroom house would be ideal. "The bigger the better" Sarah added. The aim is to sleep up to 12 people with separate bedrooms for men, women and families. If the building needed work, the group would get a builder to do it up. Many other service providers are happy to provide food for the shelter. Volunteers can also take on various roles like cooking, serving, cleaning, setting up beds and social support. "People can come in and be a mentor" Sarah said. Go to www.safewaterscc.org to learn more about volunteering.

This summer's bushfires and COVID-19 have also hampered their plans. Sarah said getting a permanent shelter would be better sooner rather than latter but added within the next 12 months would be the goal. People who may have a suitable building can head to the groups website for contact details.

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