Petition urges relocation of planned mental health residence

May 11, 2024 BY

Local parents are concerned about the proximity of the Haven development to the adjacent Torquay Coast Primary School and YMCA Early Learning Centre. Photo: ELLIE CLARINGBOLD

A GROUP of Torquay residents is calling for a proposed mental health care facility to be relocated, stating its proximity to a local school and daycare centre poses an “unacceptable risk” to the area’s families.

The facility, which is expected to open next year, will be operated by Mind Australia and subsidiary and social housing developer The Haven Foundation. When completed, the development on Silvereye Street will feature 12 one-bedroom homes and house individuals with long-term mental health concerns who are unable to live independently.

The complex will sit about 400m from the YMCA Early Learning Centre and next to Torquay Coast Primary School, with one of the school’s main entrances located directly across the road from the site.

Parents say this entrance caters to upwards of 100 students each morning, with children gathering, generally unsupervised, at the gate from as early at 8.15am, until the school opens at 8.45am.

Dallas Fett, a parent with two children at the primary school, said the community was feeling “shellshocked” by the decision to construct the Haven residence so close to local schools, and remained concerned about the lack of information that had been provided to the community about the site.

Mr Fett and his wife Rebecca have launched a petition calling for the residence to be relocated to a more appropriate site. It has since garnered more than 700 signatures.

“In light of what’s happened in Torquay previously in the pharmacy, but also what happened in Sydney with the male that had gone off his meds, the chance for something to happen to our most vulnerable is just too much risk to take here,” Mr Fett said. “I can’t really understand why a government-based entity would put such a facility in an area so filled with children. To me it’s just absolutely ludicrous and it’s idiotic and it’s negligent.”

Rebecca Fett said she felt “let down”. “People are not giving us any information. “It’s making it seem like there is something to hide and there is something to be concerned about because otherwise, why wouldn’t they be clear in their communication and come talk to us?

One of Torquay Coast Primary School’s main entrances is located directly across the road from the site on Silvereye Street.

“Maybe our concerns could be addressed if anyone bothered to actually communicate with us and tell us more information about the types of people that will be put into this facility.”

The couple said they recognised the need for such residences but “one incident is one too many”.

Mind Australia chief executive Gill Callister said the 10 Haven residences already in operation across the state, including Highton, had “proved exemplary in sitting peacefully and harmoniously within their neighbourhoods”.

She said a key goal of the residences was to provide people with mental health challenges a “stable, long-term home in their local area”, allowing them to stay close to their loved ones.

“Haven residences support individuals from the local community who have manageable health conditions but require day-to-day support to maintain their daily routine.

“It is important to note that Australian and international research consistently demonstrates that people with long-term mental health challenges are significantly more likely to be the victims of violence than other people, and statistically

no more likely than anyone else to commit violent acts.

“They are subject to a huge amount of stigma and discrimination, which undermines their wellbeing.”

Ms Callister said the organisation had a “well-developed selection process” in place to ensure the level of support provided at the site meets resident needs and that residents are a good fit with each other.

“The site was chosen taking into consideration multiple elements including the unmet need in the existing community for supported housing and reasonable proximity to services and facilities for residents – all the usual things that are required to enable people to live

a good life.”

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