Newcastle’s Silk Hotel is on emergency housing databases as “men only”, but a woman was sent there this week

Newcastle’s Silk Hotel is on emergency housing databases as “men only”, but a woman was sent there this week

Newcastle Herald

June 3, 2016, 6 p.m

Rach Kez SilkRepeat: Victims of Crime Assistance League (VOCAL) support workers Kerrie Thompson (left) and Rachael Garrick outside Newcastle’s “last resort” emergency accommodation, the Silk Hotel, for male-only referrals

A TRAUMATISED woman victim of a violent crime was referred by a NSW Government hotline to Newcastle’s “last resort” hotel on Tuesday only one week after government assurances no more women or children would be sent there.

The referral was despite the Silk Hotel clearly appearing on government databases as a “last resort for MEN ONLY”, and owner Luke Fitzsimmons confirming to the Newcastle Herald that his hotel receives Corrective Services referrals.

Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp raised the breach directly with Family and Community Services Minister Brad Hazzard on Friday, and described the referral as “appalling”.

“The Department has only just given a commitment to cease sending women and children to this accommodation provider, yet that is clearly not occurring,” Mr Crakanthorp said.

He passed a list of alternative accommodation proposals to Mr Hazzard during a meeting early this week, after a Herald article on May 25 about a domestic violence victim who chose to sleep in her car rather than the Silk Hotel where she did not feel safe.

Victims of Crime Assistance League (VOCAL) support worker Rachael Garrick said her group prepared the list of at least 12 alternative accommodation options in the Newcastle area specifically for women and children who were victims of domestic violence.

“People were not happy to see traumatised women and children referred to a hotel that is so clearly unsuitable,” Ms Garrick said.

“People were saying it was outrageous. The community’s been outraged by it.”

The woman was referred to the Silk Hotel on Tuesday after making a phone call from a police station to the NSW Government’s Link2Home referral phone line.

The woman spent the night at the Silk Hotel after telling Ms Garrick, “Where else am I going to stay?”

VOCAL lodged a complaint after the Department of Family and Community Services last week told the Herald it “no longer refers women and their children to the Silk Hotel”.

Mr Fitzsimmons said his hotel was used by NSW Corrective Services for “people who have left jail who need a place to stay” or men out on parole, and he was not advised of their criminal background.

A Family and Community Services spokesperson confirmed an “error in the referral”, said it was disappointing, and the department had contacted the woman and apologised for the mistake.

“We have taken steps to ensure this failure in our process does not happen again.”

The woman has been referred to suitable emergency accommodation.

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