New Coast Shelter CEO pushes for more social housing

Coast Shelter CEO, Michael Starr

Coast Shelter’s new CEO Michael Starr is a man on a mission.

Starr took the helm early this year and is determined to agitate for more social and transitional housing options for the most vulnerable people in the region.

A Coast resident for several years, Starr is seeking to leverage his experience in early intervention services for young people, social enterprises, employment and family accommodation services.

“In the youth specialist sector, I have worked across Australia in communities of high need and disadvantage; communities where people were experiencing long-term unemployment, intergenerational welfare dependency, poor general health and or diagnosed mental health conditions, homelessness, family domestic violence and high incarceration rates.”

Starr said he wants to tackle the issues impacting the lives of people on the Central Coast.

“Things like access to affordable and social housing so people can live safe, stable lives; providing safe housing to women and children escaping domestic and family violence; and further investment in our Social Enterprise transitional employment programs to enable paid jobs for people before transitioning to open employment,” he said.

Starr said demand for social and affordable housing on the Central Coast is significant at the moment and only expected to rise further.

“All stakeholders in our community need to come together and create a sustainable plan on how everyone can have access to affordable and sustainable housing now and into the future,” he said.

“Leaders need to start the conversations, strategies and planning now.”

Starr said one of the hidden impacts for the most vulnerable in our community has been increased isolation and social disconnection which can have negative impact for people experiencing family violence, homelessness or living with mental health issues.

“Throughout 2020 our Community Centre and Restaurant at Gosford saw continued need for take away meals, assistance with housing and clothing and support to access health services,” he said.

“The Centre provided over 1,100 people with access to basic services like showers, laundry facilities and haircuts.

“Unfortunately our youth, men and women’s accommodation services all have wait lists and we are receiving more referrals every day.

“A contributing factor to this is the lack of affordable, suitable transitional accommodation available on the Central Coast.

“I am encouraged though by the lower numbers being reported of people experiencing street homelessness on the Central Coast in the 2021 State Government Street Count initiative.”

Starr said many people on the Central Coast will need to rebuild and reset their lives in 2021 due to COVID-19.

“In 2021 I see great opportunities to collaborate with local organisations for greater social impact.

“We plan to work much more closely with our local Indigenous community and listen to what they tell us about issues impacting local people and how we can co-design services to further meet cultural, family and individual needs.

“Coast Shelter has close to 250 volunteers serving and helping others on a daily basis in our Community Centre, Restaurant and other programs like the Driver Mentor program helping young people get a drivers licence.

“Our volunteers are a diverse group from across the Central Coast and reflect the generosity of our community’ we are incredibly fortunate and grateful to have them work alongside us.”

Terry Collins