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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3025 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

The people involved in this sector were very keen to see this government actually take steps to set one up on the south side. We have Samaritan House on this side of the lake, but there is a very real need in this particular area, and it is backed up by that unanimous committee report tabled in the Assembly earlier during these sittings. That is something that should be reflected in the budget.

Also, I still get quite a lot of calls in relation to men and men with children needing accommodation. Whilst there is one service-which was transferred to a different provider under some controversial circumstances, and I will not take this debate to go into that-there is quite clearly a continuing need for further assistance to men with children. It is a need, I would suggest, that indicates that another shelter should be provided, this one on the south side, the original one being in Belconnen. I have said before that I think the provider that was providing the service in Belconnen-the Lone Fathers Association-should be given the one on the south side. This is as a result of the circumstances that led to their removal prior to the contract terminating, which we have already commented on. They also provide a very different type of service, I understand, to the one currently operating. And both services, I think, are very much needed here.

That is another area of need. So I would have expected at least some steps to be taken-even this crucially important step, because we do have those obviously accurate figures for the number of single men in need, sleeping on park benches, in cars, wherever, simply because there is not emergency accommodation there.

It is all very well to put $3 million in a slush fund and say, "Well, we are awaiting another report," when quite obviously there is a crisis there. It would not cost anything like $3 million to set up another service. That is something I think the government needs to address. It does have money. It does have $3 million there-unallocated-and I would certainly call on it to allocate some of that money now, at least at this stage, for a single men's crisis accommodation service, which quite painfully and obviously is needed.

I think that is the most glaring omission from the housing budget. The homeless, of course, are the most vulnerable group in our community. In recent months we have seen quite concrete figures there, and unfortunately there is nothing in the last couple of months to indicate that those figures, which were available in May, look like changing. They have basically been confirmed. I think there are probably a number of other steps that the government needs to take to further improve Housing's operations. That is probably not so much a budgetary thing but that is certainly something that I will be talking to the minister about and pressuring him on. There are still certain things that I think need to be improved there.

On a positive note, I see the fire safety improvement program being announced. That is very pleasing. I can recall, quite a long time ago now as housing minister-and I think I had not been there for very long-instituting a program of installation by our fire brigade of some 121/2 thousand fire alarms in all public housing. That was in fact completed well and truly ahead of schedule. I think the fire safety improvement program is timely and I would actually commend the minister for doing that. I think that is a good commitment and it builds on nicely to initiatives taken by the previous government.

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