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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (16 May) . . Page.. 1742 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

has not commenced, even though money has been made available. It may not be structurally suitable for that purpose.

As I said several weeks ago, that is an ideal opportunity to give at least 16 and possibly more desperate people emergency accommodation. I have not heard back from the government on that. I hope that that will occur. The building is there; the beds are there; the blankets are there; the staff are there. There was going to be a downsizing of staff when the building turned into another type of unit supervised by other staff, but I understand the staff are still there.

I do not know from the minister's statement whether the accommodation for 18 to 25-year-olds he speaks about involves that block. If it does, I would commend him. If it does not, I would strongly suggest that he look at that block, as I suggested several weeks ago, and use it while he can. It will accommodate at least 16 people.

As members in this place know, the opposition has taken great interest in what the Labor government has done in accommodation for men with children. We have been highly critical, and rightly so, of them throwing out the MAACS program run by lone fathers from the house for men on the north side.

A new program is up and running there. I have a couple of concerns with that. It is impossible for people to access that program after 10 o'clock, as a number of people have tried to do. The president of the organisation that ran it is still getting phone calls because his number is still on the departmental telephone contact list, even though that was put out well and truly after the department had given the contract to another group. People desperate for accommodation are making 60 to 80 calls a month to the old president, Barry Williams. That is very worrying.

The group looks after a longer term clientele-two to three men with children or families-rather than people seeking emergency accommodation. That is in their terms of reference. That is nice for the families concerned, but when my office gets phone calls from a lot of men who are sleeping in cars with their children, I do not think that is a satisfactory situation.

The opposition has called on this government to establish another centre on the south side. In the past, we have actually said, "Why not start the new group on the south side and leave MAACS to run its operation on the north side?" I do not think anyone would quibble with MAACS providing their short-term emergency accommodation for men with families on the south side. That would not cost a huge amount of money. They operated on about $100,000 a year before. The new group has $180,000 a year.

ACT Housing would provide a house. That is not a huge ask. That would alleviate some of the problem but not all of it. A lot of other things need to be done, but that is one solution. Another solution is to open up the block at Ainslie village. But I suspect even that may not be enough, so other moves are necessary.

I have never seen the problem quite as bad as it is now. The minister indicated that the private housing market is tight. That is a fact and is obviously a contributing factor. There is a lot more we can do and a lot more the government can do.

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