Taxpayers are paying $653 a night for each drunk to stay at the under-used sobering up shelter in Katherine.
At that price, it is some of the most expensive accommodation in the NT - dearer than the award-winning Cicada Lodge or an executive suite with harbour views at the Hilton in Darwin.
Already at least one senior community leaders is calling for the "waste" to end and the shelter to be given a new role, perhaps even as a youth "safe house".
Open five days a week, with full funding for 18 beds and seven staff (two full-time), the shelter is designed to cater for almost 4700 drunks a year.
The shelter in Giles Street provides people with a safe place to shower, sleep and eat breakfast.
Staff can also help refer people to other support services.
This past year it housed just 1067 people - an occupancy rate of 23 per cent which would have sent another hotel or motel broke.
The Katherine shelter is run by Mission Australia but is paid for by the NT Government as a key weapon against the chronic alcohol abuse problems long experienced in Katherine.
For their part, Mission Australia, one of many NGOs (non government organisations) financed by taxpayers which operate in Katherine, say there are fewer drunks in Katherine these days.
Revelations of the under use of Katherine's sobering up shelter was contained in a government report on Katherine and other similar shelters across the NT, and released at the end of last year.
In that report, those communities with police outside bottle shops - Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine - had seen a reduction in drunks.
"The provider surmised that this (low numbers) could be due to the police presence at takeaway outlets resulting in people moving away from town," the report said.
The report's authors, PricewaterhouseCoopers Indigenous Consulting Pty Limited, also pointed to a frayed relationship between the shelter and Kalano's community patrol which was supposed to deliver drunks to the shelter.
The report says the underuse of the facility could be traced back to 2017.
The SUS (sobering up shelter) indicated that for some period of time the SUS has been averaging a low frequency of clients, this is consistent with data sets on admission and utilisation for the period June 2017 to May 2018."
The report states that "multiple stakeholders" had expressed a concern about the relationship between the community patrol and the shelter.
In past years Kalano and the shelter used to operate a two-way radio system to "collaborate" on drunk pick-ups, but no longer.
Police also questioned the opening and closing times of the shelter and suggested it needed to be open later and on weekends when most of the alcohol abuse actually occurred.
At present, the shelter has beds for 18 - 12 men and six women - and operates from 4pm – 8am Monday to Friday (closing at 8am on Saturday morning).
No new people are accepted after 3am "to address duty of care issues for people having enough time to sober up prior to leaving the shelter".
As a result of the review, Mission Australia regional leader (NT) Michael Soler said from April the shelter was changing its hours to Wednesday 4pm to Sunday 8am.
"This decision follows engagement with key stakeholders including the Government to ensure that the service best meets higher accommodation needs during this period of the week."
Police clearly wanted the shelter open on Saturday nights.
Mission Australia, which runs other services in Katherine as well, has been operating the shelter since July last year under the current contract to run through to 2020.
The NT Government paid the organisation almost $700,000 to run the Katherine shelter in 2018.
The shelter employs seven staff in Katherine, two of which are full time. The remaining staff operate as a flexible workforce.
Alderman Toni Tapp Coutts wants the underused shelter turned into a safe house.
Acknowledging the issue of sending young people back to homes they may be avoiding due to family issues, abuse or a lack of food, Alderman Tapp Coutts said Katherine needs a safe house "where kids can go if they are picked up at night".
"With the under-use of the sobering up shelter it should be changed to a night hub and safe house.
"There are 18 beds and it is totally underutilised. Police or [Kalano] Night Patrol could take them to a safe place for the night. They could get up, have breakfast and then access the support of service providers to get them back on track.
"We know most break-ins are for food and cash, it is our moral and community responsibility to ensure children are safe," she said.
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