Street Friends WA founder keeps fighting to help Perth’s homeless


Michelle Dunlop is a Volunteer WA Awards nominee. Picture: David Baylis
Michelle Dunlop is a Volunteer WA Awards nominee. Picture: David Baylis

STREET Friends WA founder Michelle Dunlop felt like a “broken record” asking the City of Perth for help to provide food and clothing to some of Perth’s most disadvantaged people.

Mrs Dunlop and her army of volunteers provide food, blankets and clothing to about 150 homeless people each week in the Perth CBD with no government funding.

She said coming into winter their job was made harder by poor lighting and no shelter from the weather.

And despite requests to the City of Perth to install lighting and shelter for the public safety of volunteers, nothing had been done.

“We work under hard conditions in winter, with little to no light, no permanent shelter; just some temporary plastic gazebos, which were kindly donated, but leak on wet nights, and if we are lucky we have access to one power point about 40m from where we set up, which often doesn’t work,” she said.

Mrs Dunlop said a representative from the City told her it did not want to “encourage homelessness” in the CBD by providing further resources.

She was also told her access to the power point could be restricted.

“I was told if I continued to trip the power point in the future by overloading it with the kettle or sandwich maker then a lock will be installed to prevent us from accessing it.”

A City spokesman said it had a responsibility to ratepayers but also a duty of care for all those in the city, including the homeless, and was working with several organisations and agencies to help people at risk.

He said the City had installed additional lighting, seating and bins in the vicinity.

“It needed to be noted the power outlets provided by the City are 10 amp outlets and were installed for the Street Doctor, a medical service,” the spokesman said.

“In discussions with Mrs Dunlop it has become clear the power points have been overloaded through running appliances, resulting in the switchboard being weakened, and extension cords have damaged the sockets.

“It was explained to Mrs Dunlop that the damaged sockets have now become a safety issue and restricted access may have to be considered in the future if they are not used properly.”

However, Mrs Dunlop said the additional lighting, seating and bins provided were nowhere near the area Street Friends used and the power outlet was different to the one used by Street Doctors.

Mrs Dunlop started Street Friends nine years ago with a desire to help those who were sleeping rough in Perth.

Since then the volunteers have gone from helping 20 people to around 150 each Thursday night, including children.

Mrs Dunlop said she had recently written to Premier Mark McGowan as a plea for help.

“We would love to make it safer for volunteers to carry out this work,” she said.

“Ideally, we would love to have an unused building or area we could use each week, with some storage.

“No one chooses a life of homelessness and coming into winter it’s even more heartbreaking seeing these people suffer, so we want to be able to continue to offer them some help.”

A spokesman for the Premier confirmed an email from Street Friends WA had been received and the Premier would respond in due course.

“We recognise the efforts of volunteers to assist those in need throughout our community,” he said.