Illawarra housing agencies join forces for more 'clout'

Two Illawarra housing agencies have merged to ensure their long-term survival despite an uncertain funding future.

As part of Youth Homelessness Day on Wednesday, Southern Youth and Family Services (SYFS) and Illawarra Youth Housing (IYH) announced that they would now operate jointly under the SYFS banner.

SYFS chief executive Narelle Clay said the merger aimed to streamline services, improve co-ordination and attract investment funding.

"We are like-minded agencies with similar target groups," she said.

Ms Clay had previously told the Mercury she feared smaller housing services would be squeezed out under new allocation guidelines that would cut the number of state-funded agencies from 400 to 140.

She said the partnership would increase their clout and influence in the sector.

"It will help us attract resources and investment, and increase our competitiveness in gaining funding," Ms Clay said.

"The government is preferring to fund agencies that prove they can attract partnerships."

IYH manager Kristy Puckeridge said the merger was a natural fit.

"We've always referred on to SYFS anyway, and this will help us become more proactive and competitive in the market," she said.

"It will allow us to provide over and above what we currently do."

Dozens attended the Youth Homelessness Matters Day staged by the two services. Circus workshops, music jam sessions, a jumping castle and more were put on for clients of SYFS.

"It's a celebration of young people, the resilience of those who can bounce back from challenging situations," Ms Puckeridge said.

In the last financial year, SYFS and IYH assisted more than 6000 young people and 1800 families. More than 1200 people in Wollongong are classed as homeless, according to the 2011 census.

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