WA’S front line in the fight against homelessness gathered in West Perth last week with key representatives from the Liberal, Labor and Greens parties.
Ruah Community Services, Mission Australia, St Bartholomew’s House, Foundation Housing, St Patrick’s Community Support Centre, Anglicare WA and St Vincent de Paul Society hosted a Roundtable to End Homelessness forum ahead of the State Election.
Perth MLA Eleni Evangel, Perth Labor candidate John Carey and Greens housing spokesperson and MLC Lynn Maclaren were in furious agreement at times about the need for a co-ordinated, united approach to homelessness.
Ruah Community Services chief executive Debra Zanella said it was “more vital than ever” for politicians to work in partnership with homeless service providers to end homelessness.
“The homeless population of Perth is approaching 10,000; an alarmingly high number for a city the size of ours,” she said.
“Many of these people have significant complex needs that place them at high risk.”
St Bartholomew’s House chief executive John Berger, who chaired the event, said homelessness organisations and programs had no stable funding, often not knowing year-to-year if their funding would be renewed.
Mr Berger asked the politicians key questions, “Do you support our strategies? Do you have policies in place? What action will you take?”
Ms Evangel said the new City of Perth Act enabled the Government to work more closely with local authorities to deal with homeless in central Perth, where it is most prevalent, and noted the new funding to expanded services at the Salvation Army’s Beacon facility.
Mr Carey said homelessness was a complex issue, and that Labor’s domestic violence strategy – including two new domestic violence shelters – would address the major cause of homelessness in WA.
Ms Maclaren said international examples demonstrated homelessness could be ended.
“There are barriers to ending homelessness in State legislation… we need to increase the supply of housing, especially the supply of affordable housing through infill development,” she said.
“In Utah (USA) they were able to do a lot to end homelessness very quickly just by the government working with the private sector.”