The NSW Opposition is today pushing for the Baird Liberal Government’s controversialGoing Home, Staying Home reforms to be debated in NSW Parliament – as the reforms put the future of 20 specialist homelessness services in inner Sydney at risk.

Opposition Leader John Robertson, Deputy Opposition Leader and Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services Linda Burney, Shadow Minister for Housing and Women Sophie Cotsis and Member for Marrickville Carmel Tebbutt today joined inner Sydney Labor Candidates Penny Sharpe (Newtown), Verity Firth (Balmain), Jo Haylen (Summer Hill) and Edwina Lloyd (Sydney) to urge concerned locals to sign a petition that would force the government to debate its cruel cuts in NSW Parliament.

Under the Liberal Government’sGoing Home, Staying Home reforms, funding has been redirected to generalist shelters that house men and women together – regardless of whether it is appropriate to individuals’ needs – and over 80 specialist providers across the state have not had their funding renewed.  

“Time and again, the Liberals have shown that they simply don’t care about the most vulnerable in our society – and these cruel reforms are another shocking example,” Opposition Leader John Robertson said.

“For decades, specialist refuges have been providing important services and support to people in times of need – from women and children fleeing domestic violence, to people with mental health and addiction issues facing homelessness.

“Now many are closing their doors, not just here in the inner city, but right across the state. Everyone agrees that these specialist providers complement the work of the larger, generalist homelessness services – so these senseless reforms are simply unnecessary.”

The group was joined by the manager of the Lillian Howell Project -a specialist homelessness service providing medium-to-long term supported housing for young women aged between 14 and 18.  Many of these women are survivors of child sexual abuse, neglect or family violence.

The Lillian Howell Project has operated successfully in Sydney’s inner west for 26 years – but will shut its doors next month as a direct result of the Going Home, Staying Home funding cut.

Deputy Opposition Leader Linda Burney said: “It’s absolutely shameful that this Liberal Government is putting women and children out onto the streets – especially now, in winter. 

“The Lillian Howell Project has been offering young girls safety and support for over a quarter of a century, but is now being forced to shut its doors – collateral damage in the Liberals’ ideological crusade of sell-offs and cuts. 

“We’re calling on the Liberal Government to recognise this reform package for what it is – a complete mess and abject failure that is now putting people on the streets.”

Shadow Minister for Housing and Women Sophie Cotsis said: “Mike Baird and Gabrielle Upton promised the new reforms would not see shelters closing their doors – in fact, that there would be no changes in services.

“But the situation unfolding runs contrary to the Liberals’ claims, with shelters closing left, right and centre, begging the question: what was the point of the reforms at all?

“It’s not just a problem here in Sydney – we’ve visited homelessness services facing closure in regions like the Hunter, the South Coast, Mid-North Coast and Bega. Mike Baird’s cuts hit especially hard in rural and regional areas, where locals simply can’t afford to see one of the limited number of shelters in their area close their doors.

“The government needs to reverse its cruel cuts and restore funding to specialist services, so that women and children continue to have a safe haven from domestic violence and abuse,” Ms Cotsis said.