Coast Shelter's History
Coast Shelter had its beginnings with Rumbalara Youth Refuge and the old convent where the Gosford parking station now stands. Rumbalara was purposely built by Gosford City Council and had a twofold purpose; four beds were for homeless youth and two beds were for students who were able to return home on weekends. The convent was made available by Gosford City Council when St Joseph’s relocated to East Gosford and this was used to house homeless men, women and families.
At the time, these programs were run by Gosford City Community and Information Services who were faced with overwhelming adversity and funding restraints, and had no other option but to close these programs. At the last minute, Laurie Maher approached Centacare Broken Bay to auspice the Service and this was approved by the Minister for Community Services. Laurie, who was ably supported by Jim Grainger and Trish Bramble, worked as a volunteer for quite some time to restructure the organisation, obtain additional funds and establish a new Management Committee.
All of this was completed within eight months at which time ‘Gosford Emergency Accommodation Services’ commenced. Laurie was able to convince the ‘powers to be’ to allocate additional funding towards programs to assist the homeless of the Central Coast. This ensured the viability of both refuges, allowed for the commissioning of Kara Family Refuge, Coimba Men’s Refuge as well as a number of other cottages provided by the Office of Community Housing. Later the Service auspiced Maya Young Women’s Refuge and The Ridge which was a special program for behaviourally challenged young children in the care of the State.
Coast Shelter has now grown to include ten refuges, an amazing Community Centre and over 100 outreach properties which are spread across the Central Coast accommodating approximately 150 persons every night. Coast shelter works tirelessly advocating for the homeless and campaigning for the social inclusion of our disadvantaged citizens. Funding for Coast Shelter has always been a problem and in real terms there has been no increase in Supported Accommodation Assistance Program funds since 1992. Financial stability is yet to be assured and continued lobbying for support is a daily must. Yet the challenges are met and met admirably.
It is said that nothing introduces a man to himself like adversity. From those early visionary days, it has always been more than offering accommodation. It has been about providing support and advice to empower clients to overcome the issues which led to their homelessness. It also involves providing a safe and stable environment where clients can learn essential living skills such as budgeting, cooking, cleaning and family relationship building. Within the community, it is not a level playing field.
Many of our clients are disadvantaged because of diminished living, social and communication skills. Numeracy and literacy problems are high, as is substance abuse. But with care, support and educational programs, many of these people transcend their current predicaments and become contributing members of our community. The demand for repeat assistance is declining rapidly which aligns itself with a simple policy of offering a hand-up not a hand-out.