Closure of Unanderra halfway house stirs crime fears - Illawarra Mercury - Public Service Association

Closure of Unanderra halfway house stirs crime fears – Illawarra Mercury

PSA's Tony Heathwood at the parolee centre to be closed. Picture: Orlando Chiodo

PSA’s Tony Heathwood at the parolee centre to be closed. Picture: Orlando Chiodo


The Public Service Association has hit out at a decision to close the Illawarra’s only halfway house for parolees, labelling the decision “appalling”.

The Unanderra Community Offender Support Program (COSP) centre, which provides emergency housing for parolees, is set to be sold in the coming weeks, affecting its 13 staff and dozens of offenders who rely on the accommodation.

The centre is one of several across the state to be closed after a Corrective Services NSW review found many “costly and inefficient”.

Offender housing centres to shut down

Public Service Association south-east regional organiser Tony Heathwood said the region’s COSP centre offered support to offenders who were “at the bottom of the barrel”.

“They come here because they’ve burnt all their bridges with their family and friends; nobody wants them so they’ve got nowhere to go when they come out of jail, they’re basically homeless,” he said.

“The COSP centre helps them to get re-established; they assist them to find housing and jobs and try to reunite them with their families.”

Nearly half the centre’s residents successfully exit the program and re-enter the community.

Mr Heathwood believes the closure will cause a spike in reoffending as recently released criminals struggle to cope.

“Here, they are subject to a curfew, they are regularly drug and breath-tested; if they start using drugs or re-offending, the staff know about it,” he said.

“The only other similar accommodation is boarding houses but there isn’t enough supervision; they will really struggle to even find that housing without someone to give them a reference or help them.”

The closure of the centre will also mean 13 jobs lost in the region.

Mr Heathwood said staff would now be forced to either move, commute or take voluntary redundancies.

“They’ve been offered positions in Gunnedah or Broken Hill but it’s a long way to go,” he said.

“Some have opportunities of work at Long Bay but that’s five hours of travel a day; they have partners and kids, they didn’t sign up for a five-hour commute.”

Corrective Services NSW Commissioner Peter Severin said efforts would be made to find the staff new positions within the department.

Corrective Services NSW will replace the centres through a tender process for community sector accommodation and support services, opening later this year.

Mr Severin said stable accommodation was known to be crucial to prevent reoffending.

“Our new approach provides stable, longer-term accommodation straight away with support services added once the individual is housed,” he said.

“This is all about providing offenders with the tools to reduce their likelihood of reoffending so we can better community safety results.”

Illawarra Mercury: Closure of Unanderra halfway house stirs crime fears

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