Crit­i­cal Hutt St Cen­tre must ex­pand: client

The Advertiser - - NEWS - CELESTE VILLANI CITY EDITOR

AF­TER leav­ing his job “with­out a plan B”, Paul Lang­don found him­self home­less and liv­ing on the streets five months ago.

The 52-year-old could not ac­cess Cen­tre­link pay­ments be­cause he had no valid form of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, leav­ing him vul­ner­a­ble with no sup­port.

He turned to the Hutt St Cen­tre and has since em­braced its ser­vices, call­ing them the “life­line” he needed dur­ing the “bleak” stage of his life.

“I was on the street for a month be­fore I went to the Hutt St Cen­tre … it was a brave step for me to go there,” Mr Lang­don said. “I needed some­one to sup­port me and find my way back out of this.”

As the cen­tre con­tin­ues to help Mr Lang­don find his way, he is hope­ful that its pro­posed $2.2 mil­lion ex­pan­sion is ap­proved by the Ade­laide City Coun­cil tonight.

He said an up­grade of the cen­tre would en­able it to con­tinue its work help­ing peo­ple in a sit­u­a­tion like his own.

The up­grade in­cludes a new front foyer, fenc­ing and per­gola.

A re­port by coun­cil staff said the “al­ter­ations to the build­ing are con­sid­ered a pos­i­tive out­come for the street”.

The cen­tre has come un­der fire in re­cent years for clients’ al­leged anti-so­cial be­hav­iour, how­ever it de­nies those claims.

Act­ing on be­half of the cen­tre, lawyer James Hilditch, of Hilditch Lawyers, wrote to the coun­cil that the cen­tre is “frus­trated when its clients are im­me­di­ately and read­ily blamed for anti-so­cial be­hav­iour”. The coun­cil re­port in­cluded com­ments made by SA Po­lice in last year’s Poverty Se­lect Com­mit­tee that of­fi­cers felt “sorry” for the cen­tre as it had been in­cor­rectly blamed for crime.

Mr Lang­don, now liv­ing in a city ho­tel un­der an SA Gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tive to sup­port the home­less dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­demic, said the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple us­ing the cen­tre were do­ing the right thing.

The coun­cil has re­ceived 14 rep­re­sen­ta­tions against the cen­tre’s ex­pan­sion.

The Ad­ver­tiser re­ported ear­lier this month that Hutt St Cen­tre crit­ics had ramped up at­tacks on the cen­tre, la­belling it “poi­sonous” as they lob­bied to block its ex­pan­sion. Hutt St Cen­tre chief ex­ec­u­tive Chris Burns de­clined to com­ment ahead of the meet­ing.

Ade­laide City Coun­cil Lord Mayor Sandy Ver­schoor said the up­grade would “make the cen­tre work bet­ter”.

“I know there has been is­sues around the cen­tre and these plans may some­what re­lieve those on the street … like dis­cour­ag­ing loi­ter­ing at the front,” Ms Ver­schoor said.

Shel­ter SA ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Alice Clark ex­pected home­less­ness to in­crease and the ex­pan­sion would ad­dress the is­sue.

Pic­ture: NAOMI JEL­LI­COE

A WAY OUT: Paul Lang­don is one of the Hutt St Cen­tre’s clients and fully sup­ports its ex­pan­sion.

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