Illawarra residents facing homelessness during the festive period have been left in the lurch, service providers say, with single mothers among those being denied temporary accommodation without "rhyme or reason".
Leigh, who did not want to use her real name to protect the identity of her children, is a pregnant single mother-of-two living in a Woonona motel.
The 29-year-old tried to get an extension on her temporary accommodation which was due to wind up on December 23. Initially it was denied, but Leigh was then told she could stay until Boxing Day if she had a leaving plan in place.
She called several support services in the meantime to work out a solution, however with many closed due to the holidays, her options were running dry.
"I called Links2Home who said I had ran out of accommodation, I called all the refuges and there was nothing available, I have no one in my area I could stay with," she said.
"I tried to call my doctor to provide medical certificates on Christmas Eve but there were no doctor's appointments.
"I thought the documents I provided would have been enough, which were from victim services, letters from psychologists - but they didn't accept it and said my days were up.
"On Boxing Day I was pretty much left with nowhere to go."
Leigh contemplated purchasing a tent to live in, until a last-minute reprieve meant she could move into transitional housing. But she said the system needed to change.
Wollongong Homeless Hub CEO Mandy Booker said another resident had been denied crisis accommodation in the lead up to Christmas, only for it to be reinstated a few days later.
Ms Booker added more needed to be done to ensure the process of securing temporary or emergency accommodation is less traumatic.
"It's really critical we keep the experience of people experiencing homelessness less traumatic," Ms Booker said.
"(Leigh) had complied with all of the requests that were made of her, as well as proactively trying to resolve the situation herself."
Temporary accommodation supplements Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) in providing time limited housing in low cost motels, caravan parks or supported accommodation for clients who are homeless.
Its aim is to provide a bridge for those to secure alternative accommodation, whether crisis accommodation, social housing or a private rental.
People are assessed individually on a case by case situation when being considered for an extension of their temporary accommodation.
With residents being denied temporary or crisis accommodation with "no rhyme or reason", Ms Booker would like to see a clearer approach to decision making.
"We really do need a consistent and transparent approach so that we can inform people not only what requirements are, but also what the likely outcome is going to be ... so we can support them during that time," she said.
A Department of Communities and Justice spokesperson said ensuring people have access to crisis accommodation is a priority.
"In the event a person needs temporary crisis accommodation beyond 28 days, a request is made for out of guidelines approval," the spokesperson said.
"If a person is homeless and there are extenuating circumstances, out of guidelines approval would be granted."
The spokesperson reminded Link2Home is open 24 hours per day, every day of the year and can contacted on 1800 152 152.
"Link2Home, which assists homeless people and those at risk of homelessness statewide, has pre-booked hundreds of rooms across NSW to ensure adequate accommodation is available over the holiday period."
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