Women's helper faces a setback

THE number of women seeking help at the St Michael's Family Support and Accommodation Centre has risen 26 per cent — but from June 2014 no one will hear their plea.

The Sisters of Mercy Parramatta made the difficult decision to wind down operations at the Baulkham Hills-based organisation in August.

"For The Hills area it's a blow because there are not very many services anyway and there'll be one less," co-ordinator Carol Harding said.

She said Hills Family Centre offers short-term family support but there are no other accommodation services for women and children in The Hills.

"It's a worry. In 2011-12 we received 320 applications," Ms Harding said. "That figure accounted for 772 people; 296 of those families we couldn't accommodate at all."

The centre on Windsor Road assists homeless and at-risk women and children by providing medium-term supported accommodation, as well as early childhood education and care for children.

Between 1902 and 1982 more than 4000 children were cared for by St Michael's Family Centre.

"We work with families over eight to 12 months to find safe, affordable, independent housing, while addressing the issues that have brought them into the service," Ms Harding said.

"We have housed 25 families, including 24 children, in the last year [and] provided one-off support for 95 people.

"There is a need for this service, definitely."

The centre also provides transitional housing, targeted education programs, therapeutic group work, home visiting services, counselling and supported playgroups.

FAMILIES SEEKING HELP

■ 2009-10: 203

■ 2010-11: 254

■ 2011-12: 320

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