Problem hits home for councils

Stock image.
Stock image.

It follows a Shelter WA report, commissioned by the City of Joondalup, that found the number of people sleeping rough in the northern suburbs was relatively small (about 20 to 40) but increasing and many more were ‘couch surfing’ or living in insecure housing (about 270).

The report also found there were many services available in the community but they were often oversubscribed and unable to meet the growing needs, particularly for crisis and support accommodation with less than 1 per cent of the state’s social housing available in Joondalup and 2.93 per cent in Wanneroo.

A Wanneroo council report from last month said The Patricia Giles Centre – a refuge for women and children escaping family or domestic violence – was forced to turn away 23 women and children from May to July last year because of a lack of capacity.

“There is a shortage of crisis and transitional accommodation facilities in the City, particularly for families, young people and people with mental health issues who have difficulty maintaining housing due to underlying health conditions,” a Joondalup council document from last month said.

“There are several specialist homelessness service providers within the City who expressed interest in coordinating with other services to support people experiencing homelessness in the area.

“There may also be untapped potential for support from local churches and businesses.”

The report also found the costs for establishing a drop-in centre could range from $32,000 to $63,000 each year to lease a property or $560,000 to $950,000 to buy a property in Winton Road or the surrounding area with annual operating costs of about $600,000.

“Many of the existing drop-in centres, despite receiving government funding, run at a loss every year,” the council document said.

“This is made up by fundraising, philanthropic contributions and cross-subsidies from other programs.”

Based on the report, Shelter WA made recommendations to the City of Joondalup, which included developing a homelessness strategy with the City of Wanneroo, advocating to the State and Federal governments to fund early intervention and prevention services, reviewing its local laws to ensure they do not affect people experiencing homelessness, supporting the development of a drop-in centre and expanding social housing in the City.

Joondalup officers recommended the City develop a strategic position statement to clarify its roles and responsibilities in responding to the issue of homelessness on a regional basis. This will be presented to the council for consideration next month.

The City of Wanneroo will also develop a statement, after councillors approved the City’s involvement in developing the regional homelessness strategy.

Joondalup Mayor Troy Pickard said the number of people sleeping rough in Joondalup and Wanneroo had increased because of housing affordability and availability and because both Cities were easily accessible by public transport and seen as relatively safe places to spend the night.

“We are facing a critical junction and need to adopt appropriate strategies and actively engage with relevant stakeholders to develop long-term strategies for preventing and responding to homelessness now, in order to have long-lasting impacts in the future,” he said.

Wanneroo Mayor Tracey Roberts said homelessness was increasing due to a decline in the state and national economy and because many families were suffering severe financial pressures.

“It is important to understand the circumstances facing our residents experiencing extreme hardship and finding themselves in vulnerable situations,” she said.

“There are many families who are on the verge of being homeless and that is why it is important that we work together on this issue, including providing support and access to services.”[Lucien Wilkinson]Shelter WA executive officer Chantal Roberts said the cities of Joondalup and Wanneroo were at the forefront of positive approaches to addressing homelessness.

“While some other local governments are taking a punitive approach, by doing things like moving on people living in their cars, these local governments are leading by implementing strategies to address and prevent homelessness,” she said.“An integrated strategy will make a real difference right across the spectrum of housing need.

“For example, local government can influence the availability of affordable housing, while a drop in centre will be able to get people in touch with the support services they need to access housing or to avoid losing the housing they already have.”

Initiative to survey homeless people

An initiative to survey people who are homeless or sleeping rough will extend to the northern suburbs next month.

Every two years, Registry Week is held in the inner city of Perth to give the sector a current snapshot of who is homeless, what their needs are and how people can respond to those needs.

To help the cities of Joondalup and Wanneroo prepare a regional homelessness strategy, not-for-profit group Ruah Community Services will host Registry Week in Joondalup, at a cost to both cities of $5000 each.

The survey will be conducted over three consecutive nights, from February 9 to 11.