A year has passed since the door opened on a Raymond Terrace unit designed to help women and children flee violent situations.
In that time it has been brought into use at least once a month with each stay lasting from two days to a week, before the family is found permanent accommodation.
In many cases police place the affected family in the unit after hours so that Port Stephens Family and Neighbourhood Services can work with these mothers from the next morning.
“It’s going great guns,” the service’s early intervention and homelessness team leader Ann Fletcher said.
“We’ve had one case per month on average access the unit and it has definitely made a difference, with us working closer with police and other services, to keep these women and children safe. Even to think there’s one woman a month having to use this service, I shake my head that this issue doesn’t get the attention it needs to bring about change.”
The unit was a joint project between Port Stephens Council, which came forward with the unit, the police who renovated the space and PSFANS.
“It was such a generous donation from council, the police officers who chipped in and Friends with Dignity, which helped furnish it,” Ms Fletcher said.
The police behind the project went above and beyond.
“While we don’t play a primary role in proving accommodation, we work with other services to help people who are doing it tough and sleeping rough,” Chief Inspector Tony Townsend said.
“The domestic violence house is one example of how we’ve been able to provide assistance.”
Insp Townsend said it was important to those officers who were involved in the project, giving up their own time to renovate it.
“Where we can, we do help the disadvantaged people in the community, particularly victims of domestic violence. Supporting these people gives police a great sense of satisfaction,” he said.
“We’ll continue to play a role, where we can, in supporting other agencies in providing accommodation to those who need it.”
The mayor Ryan Palmer said the refuge had proven most valuable.
“Community safety is an absolute priority for council, which is why we are proud to support this partnership program,” he said.
“For women and children experiencing family violence, it’s incredibly important that they have somewhere to turn that is comfortable and above all else, safe.
“We’re lucky in Port Stephens to have groups like Port Stephens Family and Neighbourhood Services, who are there to help and support people when they are most in need.”