Pub with no beer: Port Kembla hotel to become homeless accommodation

Pub with no beer: Anglicare will transform the pub into accommodation for older people at risk of homelessness, to address the growing housing shortage for the region's ageing population. Picture: Robert Peet.

Pub with no beer: Anglicare will transform the pub into accommodation for older people at risk of homelessness, to address the growing housing shortage for the region's ageing population. Picture: Robert Peet.

For 130 years, the Steelworks Hotel has stood tall at the top of Wentworth Street, where it was once a meeting place for those working in the Illawarra’s biggest industry.

But new plans will transform Port Kembla’s “Top Pub” into something very different, reflecting just how much the region – and especially the town – has changed.

Welfare agency Anglicare has bought the pub, and will soon lodge plans with Wollongong council to turn it into a 22-bed residence for older people at risk of homelessness.

The dramatic overhaul of the 1890s-built, heritage listed pub is part of the organisation’s efforts to cater for the increasing number of people at risk of becoming homeless as they age.

Late last month, Anglicare Sydney research revealed less than one per cent of rental homes in the Illawarra were both appropriate and affordable for households on government income support payments. 

“The future looks grim for ageing renters on a pension, especially singles, as their income is insufficient to meet rising rental prices in Greater Sydney and the Illawarra,” Anglicare CEO Grant Millard said. 

“One of Anglicare Sydney’s main goals is to provide long term, secure housing for older people at risk of homelessness.”

He said Anglicare’s preferred design for the Steelworks Hotel includes 22 bed-sitter style units with private bathrooms and kitchenettes. 

Ten would be on the ground level and 12 would be on the first floor, with a lift included in the design.  

Long-standing drinking hole: Built in 1890, the hotel was originally named the Great Eastern Hotel.

Long-standing drinking hole: Built in 1890, the hotel was originally named the Great Eastern Hotel.

There will be a communal lounge space, shared dining room and communal laundry on the ground floor. 

These plans are yet to be placed on public exhibition, however Anglicare recently submitted documents to subdivide the site – as it says the large car park will not be needed.

According to these plans, the hotel’s 24-hour liquor licence will be formally relinquished once the hostel is approved.

The Steelworks Hotel will be Anglicare’s eighth housing assistance site, and the organisation said it was continuing the search for other site in the region.

Built in 1890, the pub – originally named the Great Eastern Hotel – was the first built overlooking the harbour. Wollongong council heritage documents describe is as "an imposing landmark of the area, dating back to the beginnings of the town as a Port and industrial centre".

Thriving hub: In 2014, the "Top Pub" was a key vantage point as the Port Kembla stack came down.

Thriving hub: In 2014, the "Top Pub" was a key vantage point as the Port Kembla stack came down.

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