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Hutt Street Centre isn't going anywhere, board decides

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The board of the Hutt Street Centre has ruled out relocating the 64-year-old homelessness service in response to local “discontent” – but has also ruled out a major rebuild and expansion, acknowledging “fear” in the community.

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Hutt Street debate

The Hutt Street Centre has been providing food, housing assistance, education and social services to Adelaide’s homeless for more than six decades.

The centre came under intense political pressure last year when its presence was blamed for a number of anti-social incidents in the Hutt Street precinct, with some residents, traders and city councillors called for it to be relocated.

Some – including long-time councillor Anne Moran and then-Lord Mayor Martin Haese – expressed fears that a major expansion of the centre might “exacerbate” problems in the area.

As InDaily exclusively revealed in April, the centre’s board was considering relocating the service in response to “discontent” among business operators in the precinct.

It had also been considering a major rebuild and expansion to the facility because its client base was growing beyond capacity.

But board chairman Phil Donato told InDaily this morning that after months of consultation with stakeholders, the Hutt Street Centre has decided it will not move and it will not rebuild.

Instead, it will make a series of renovations to its existing facility, including bringing the front of the building forward to the perimeter of the property, creating a “new central access zone” for clients of the day centre, improving “flow”, upgrading the rear courtyard and opening up two new offices within the building.

The changes aim to improve access to, and space within, the facility and bring clients inside, having fewer sitting and standing at the front of the building.

Donato conceded that a politics of fear that dominated last year’s debate over Hutt Street and concerns from some local residents was an influence in the board’s decision not to embark on a major expansion of the facility – but he insisted today’s decision was in the very best interests of its clients.

“We felt that there was some concern with expanding … we had to consider all of those (views),” he told InDaily.

“We felt that we could adequately (serve clients by renovating and) that we would satisfy our need for the future.

“We always put our clients’ needs first – but what we’ve learned with this exercise is that we have to do it in conjunction with what’s best for everybody.”

Donato said the centre had considered one other possible city location but resolved to remain at its “spiritual home” in Hutt Street.

“The proximity to parklands is always of utmost (importance).

“We had looked at one other site.

“(But) it’s been our spiritual home for 64 years. It just makes a lot of sense (to stay in Hutt Street).”

Donato declined to identify the alternative location.

He said the centre had employed several new staff members, including case managers, over the past year – which had helped cater for the growth in client numbers.

Hutt Street Centre CEO Ian Cox told InDaily the centre was moving towards a service delivery model that involved more appointments and fewer drop-ins.

Cox said the centre had received “overwhelming support” from many stakeholders urging it to remain where it is.

He said the renovations would mean fewer people spending time out the front of Hutt Street Centre and a more accessible service overall.

“We’re really limited with space … our back area is really tired. (There is) one point of access in … we will be able to create better access points and flow of traffic,” said Cox.

He said Hutt Street had initial designs prepared for the renovations but that the final product would be released following consultation with stakeholders and a reference group, which includes clients in decision-making.

He added that the service was committed to serving its clients and committed also to the local community.

“We’ve listened,” he said.

“We think these improvements (renovations) will help Hutt Street move forward … it’s been a tough year.

“Our client group will keep coming through the doors because they know they’re going to get a great service.”

He said the centre had last year helped 570 people into housing and its efforts also helped 153 clients find employment.

Cox added that the centre had provided 42,000 meals last year, as well as a nursing service, aged care for 180 people, legal clinics and a laundry service.

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