“There are people in need everywhere you go.”
That is the conviction of Suzi Kenney, manager of the Highlands Community Centres and Highlands Youth Services.
Ms Kenney works with disadvantaged people living in the Highlands, providing them with links to the support services they seek.
She said no matter how affluent a town or region like the Highlands may be, there are people who are struggling to make ends meet.
“We see people affected by unemployment, mental illness, family breakdowns... those things can affect anybody at anytime,” Ms Kenney said.
Although there are certain sections of the community that are disproportionately affected by these struggles, particularly Indigenous Australians, Ms Kenney said it is important to realise that these issues are widespread.
“It takes a lot of courage to walk through the door here and ask for help if you need it,” she said.
Fortunately for people in need in the Highlands, Ms Kenney said there are “a lot” of support services on offer.
Food hampers, for example, are available from various community organisations, including the Highlands-based Dignity organisation, which you can contact on 1300 332 334.
And if you find yourself without a safe place to stay, you can contact Link2Home, the statewide homelessness information and referral telephone service, on 1800 152 152 (24 hours, seven days).
But if you are looking for help for several issues, Ms Kenney said Stafford Cottage where she is based is a great place to start – it offers confidential information about many different support services available in the Highlands and also runs its own programs, including free tutoring for disadvantaged school students, women’s empowerment groups, and a program to help school leavers who are struggling to find work.
“Most of the different community organisations are very well networked,” Ms Kenney said. “We are constantly making referrals between each other based on the client’s needs.”
“So if someone walks through the door and asks for help with a no-interest loan, we might link them to financial counselling, and if they also have other issues, like mental illness, we might refer them to the ‘In Mind’ program.
“Or if they have alcohol and drug dependency issues, we could refer them to Oydssey House.”
Stafford Cottage also works closely with Legal Aid NSW’s family intervention unit and Lifeline’s financial counselling service.
You can contact the organisation on 4862 1122 or access their office at 22 Bendooley St, Bowral.