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Charity warns of homelessness funding cut impact

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The State Government has received more criticism over its planned reforms to homelessness services, with the St Vincent de Paul Society saying the move will lead to more rough sleepers during winter due to a “significant funding cut” to the organisation’s crisis centre for men.

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Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink on Friday announced a new system for homelessness services to provide “much better early intervention for people getting into homelessness”, but it has been widely criticised by advocacy groups and the State Opposition for budget cuts of over $1 million each to the Hutt Street Centre and Catherine House.

The system, branded “Future Directions for Homelessness”, is based on similar models used in the United Kingdom and went out to tender last year.

As part of the changes, homelessness organisations have been grouped into “alliances” – two in metropolitan Adelaide, two covering regional areas of the state and a separate alliance dedicated to family and domestic violence support.

But St Vincent de Paul Society CEO Louise Miller Frost said her organisation, which operates a range of homelessness support services, is now having to reconsider the operations of its 44-bed men’s crisis centre in Whitmore Square.

She added that the State Govt’s reforms are misguided given how the homelessness sector already functions.

“While we respect the Government’s intention to provide a more joined-up service for people facing homelessness, the fact is the sector already operates under a collaborative model,” Frost said in a statement on Sunday.

“Most recently this has been demonstrated through the Adelaide Zero Project, which was largely run by contributions and pro bono work from agencies in the sector, many of whom have just been defunded.”

Frost said investment in social housing would be a more effective measure to tackle the state’s homeless problem.

“Cutting funding to existing services and bringing new players into the sector will make no difference to the numbers of people experiencing homelessness unless there is more social housing for people to move into,” she said.

“Funding cuts to services like the Vinnies Men’s Crisis Centre will lead to more rough sleepers on the streets in the short term at least.

“Leading into winter, nobody wants to see that.”

Frost’s criticism follows similar statements from the Hutt Street Centre and Catherine House.

Shadow Minister for Human Services Nat Cook called on Member for Adelaide Rachel Sanderson to lobby to reverse the planned reforms.

“These central services help thousands of South Australians every year, and the axing of these programs right before winter is shocking,” Cook said this morning.

“At a time when South Australia’s unemployment rate is the highest in the nation, these services and the people who rely on them should be made stronger, not callously cut.”

The reforms are due to be introduced in July.

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