THE founder of Ulladulla's homeless shelter is joining a call to make it easier for charitable groups to put roofs over the heads of people in need. Sarah Date, from Safe Waters Community Care, has almost spent the past two years trying to get another shelter available for homeless people in Ulladulla. Earlier this year an ABC story caught her eye and issues raised then are even more relevant now as Safe Waters faces difficulties with its new shelter in St Vincent Street - a building owned by Shoalhaven City Council. An Anglican priest in Cobargo spoke to the ABC about calling for a simplification of the process for non-profit organisations to build affordable housing. "We need a bit of guidance in navigating our way through the pre-construction phase, and it would be great if there was a single reference point where these matters could be talked through," Reverend John Thomas said to the ABC "It would be really helpful if they could put us in contact with the right people." You could easily delete Rev Thomas' name and put in Sarah Date's and swap affordable housing for homeless shelters. Safe Waters received their final approval for a shelter on the Princes Highway, Ulladulla after a two year delay from council. For Sarah, the process for that shelter took too long and at times she has been close to her wits' end. The Safe Waters' Board was hoping their journey with the red tape hurdles would be over and would like the system to be made easier and it is clear they are not the only ones. "Like Rev Thomas said there was nobody down there from council to help them and we faced the same dilemma up here in the Shoalhaven. There was nobody from the start to help us through the processes which I think is the problem, along with no classification for a homeless shelter," Sarah said. "We had to find a classification that fits their mould and this opened a can of worms." All of the work to renovate the Princes Highway shelter came from community volunteers - close to two years before they received their occupancy certificate. After being approved for a Complying Development Certificate [CDC], as advised by council staff, and after the renovations were almost complete, Sarah was then told Safe Waters needed a town planner and needed to start a Development Application [DA]. She was surprised to learn that a DA was now needed since they had already received their CDC approval and renovations completed. "It seems I was doing the work of a town planner - trying to navigate all of these different processes and systems," the homeless shelter founder said. She would love to see the system made easier before Safe Waters and other not-for-profits try to establish other shelters or build affordable housing. With the St Vincent St shelter in Ulladulla being a council-owned building, Safe Waters was hoping it would not take another two years to open. "No, we can't wait another two years - we have people sleeping in their cars and our shelter is full," she said. "I could fill both shelters up straight away - today." Safe Waters recently asked for an update on how plans for the St Vincent Street Shelter were going, "We are now two years on from when we were approved for the council owned St Vincent Street property and have now been informed council have rejected their own DA multiple times," Sarah said. In April 2022, council staff asked Sarah about the classification of the building and the zoning of the land. She advised council about the change of use and that she thought the land would need to be re-zoned. "18 months later, council staff are now claiming that they didn't know the land needed to be re-zoned," she said The Safe Waters' Board says "this is perplexing" for them , thinking a council owned building, council staff should be across these processes, rather than seeking advice from the applicant, as they are the experts in this field. "I was hoping the process would've been much quicker this time around due to being a council owned building and the fact that we've just done this for the highway shelter - the process would surely be the same," Sarah said. "So I am unsure why it is taking so long and not treated as a priority given the rate of homelessness in our area". Council says it remains supportive of the group's efforts to help ease the homeless situation. "Council is committed to this project and is taking positive steps to enable the shelter and is aware of zoning and permissibility that need to be resolved to enable the important work Safe Waters is doing to address the challenging problem of homelessness and housing affordability in the Shoalhaven through the proposed homeless shelter," a council spokesperson said. The spokesperson onto explain about the current process that are taking shape. "We [council] have recently prepared a Planning Proposal to make a 'group home [transitional]' a land use that is permissible with consent on the proposed site," the spokesperson said. "Once finalised this will enable the intended use." This process is underway, and the NSW Department of Planning and Environment has recently issued a Gateway determination which allows the proposal to proceed to public exhibition. The matter is now open for comment - go to https://www.shoalhaven.nsw.gov.au/Access-to-Information/Documents-on-Exhibition to see more. The spokesperson said the issue was one of council's top priorities. "This project is being prioritised and the process will be completed as soon as possible, which will allow a development application to be lodged and considered over the site shortly," the spokesperson said. Sarah feels one possible solution could be for council to create a position within council to work across multiple areas to assist not-for-profits in community projects such as these. "We have recently had a Nowra shelter approved and now our highway shelter in Ulladulla; a checklist and template would be very helpful in making these complex systems and processes simpler and a person from council to provide support and advocate for priority," she said. Safe Waters has approached council about the need to make the process simpler. The majority of the things they were asked to do which held up their highway shelter can only be described as being minor. "We were discussing toilet roll holders, hooks on doors and the width of stairs, which was extremely frustrating when we have human lives at stake," Sarah said. Sarah said support to help homeless people in the community was strong but the system is just too difficult and our local council doesn't seem to be taking responsibility or making this a priority. Sarah maintains Ulladulla does have an issue with homelessness. "It is getting worse," she said about the rate of homelessness in the Ulladulla area. She said house prices going up, communities still recovering from the bushfires, the rising cost of living and unaffordable rental properties all added to the area's homeless issue "This is why we needed services in place [like homeless shelters] because the situation is not getting better and Ulladulla didn't have a homeless shelter before Safe Waters," she said. "Homelessness is not going away - as much as we would like it to - so there needs to be crisis services in place for those people who are going to become homeless." Sarah raised these issues with newly elected State Member for the South Coast Liza Butler. Mrs Butler, along with Minister Rose Jackson, in lead up to the recent NSW Election, committed to providing a boost of $250,000 to Shoalhaven homelessness services Salt Safe Shelter in Nowra and $250,000 to Ulladulla's Safe Waters Community Care. These funds have been gratefully received. There has been good news for Safe Waters recently after the group received a grant for wages for shelter staff for 12 months from the Community Development Fund NSW. Sarah said she was grateful for the grants as it will see them through for the next 12-18 months. She said the shelter needed longer-term funding - a matter she will be taking up with Mrs Butler along with the Minister for Homelessness. "We will be asking her to advocate on our behalf to get longer-term funding" she said.