In an effort to combat the ongoing housing crisis which leaders say has worsened due to COVID-19 and the increasingly tight rental market, Shoalhaven City Council has voted unanimously to re-establish the Homelessness Taskforce.
The taskforce, which was disbanded by council in August 2020, was re-established in a Strategy and Assets Committee meeting on Tuesday.
The taskforce will work with council to develop options and solutions as part of council's decision making process.
CEO of Salt Ministries Peter Dover, who was previously on the taskforce and will be joining it again, said its re-establishment is crucial if the Shoalhaven's housing crisis is to be properly addressed.
"It's been more than a year that it has been disbanded. This means homelessness has been put on the backburner and we've got a crisis going on," said Mr Dover.
"It should never have been disbanded in the first place.
"We need to start talking about strategies to tackle homelessness rather than relying on local services to sort it out themselves."
Mr Dover said the Salt Care homeless hub sees 30 to 40 people per day who are in "crisis" and are seeking housing assisance.
"We've been doing this for nine years and I have never seen the housing crisis like this."
With the crisis worsening and the Gateway Caravan Park closing at the end of September, Mr Dover said the taskforce could not have come at a more important time.
"That leaves another group of people who are going to be left on the streets."
Shoalhaven Mayor Amanda Findley is the chairperson of the taskforce, with councillors nominating Independent Councillor Nina Digiglio to be the alternate chair during Tuesday's meeting.
Cr Digiglio is thrilled to have the committee reinstated, noting the contributions the taskforce has made in the past.
"Last year I had five people come to me and Peter Dover has been able to house those five people," she said.
"We also had people experiencing domestic violence and the taskforce was able to connect them with appropriate services."
During the meeting, Country Labor Councillor Annette Alldrick backed the move, labelling the housing crisis a "dire situation" in the Shoalhaven.
"I think it's very important that we come back to the Homelessness Taskforce in the Shoalhaven and that we continue to operate the taskforce in the current climate," said Cr Alldrick.
"Especially with COVID...and the number of people that cannot find rentals...especially with houses being put out as Airbnbs."
Councillor Michael Pakes asked for the previous committee members to be given the opportunity to rejoin the taskforce.
"There were a lot of good contributions made by this committee before it was disbanded and I would like the courtesy to be at least extended to the former members to see if they would like to rejoin," he said.
"I was a strong supporter who voted against disbanding this committee. I think it's a very good committee and unfortunately we find ourselves in a very dire situation."
Shoalhaven Mayor Amanda Findley said that previous members will be asked back to the taskforce.
"Those that were members will be asked to return, because they're actually the people who know what's going on in the community in regards to homelessness numbers and what services are required," said Cr Findley.
Three people with first hand lived experience of homelessness with join the committee.
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