The face of homelessness in Midland

The face of homelessness in Midland
The face of homelessness in Midland
The face of homelessness in Midland
The face of homelessness in Midland
The face of homelessness in Midland
The face of homelessness in Midland

MARK has been living rough on the streets of Midland for two years.

The former actor and band manager hails from Hawthorn in Melbourne.

He came to WA in 2001, following his soul mate, a woman who was originally from Perth.

“We were together for 20 years,” he said.

When she passed away two years ago from cancer, Mark ended up on the streets.

His grief and depression was not medicated and he used alcohol to kill the pain.

“It is very difficult to get help for depression if you are homeless,” Mark, in his mid-50s, said.

He attends the street doctor outside Karnany House in Midland one day a week if he needs medical help.

With his faithful companion Chile, a 13-year-old Irish setter, he walks most of the City of Swan at night looking for a safe space to sleep.

He does have a bed in storage in a church, but his VW Camper Transporter was impounded by the City of Swan in February 2016, and sold at auction in June.

He had been living out of his car until the council took the vehicle.

“One look in the van showed you there was clearly someone’s life in there. I can’t believe they have taken it and destroyed the van. It’s easier to roam the streets than it is to find somewhere to live with a dog in tow,” he said.

“It is well known that homelessness is harder for people with pets. A lot of transitional places won’t let you in with a dog. Chile is my life.”

Australia has about 120,000 homeless people and Mark is the face of just one of them.

Not-for-profit organisations and charities report more and more people turning up for assistance as the numbers grow across the coutnry.

Anecdotally in Perth, the numbers have been rising since the mining boom busted.

Each person has a story to tell of hitting hard times and falling off the rails to living on the streets.

Mark is no different.

He wants to start over, but accommodation is hard to find; made harder with a pet.

His dog is well-cared for and follows him wherever he goes.

Once when he needed medical assistance for Chile, the Karnany Aboriginal Centre in Midland, which assists the homeless, paid for his veterinary bills.

“I am not Aboriginal, but they are a good organisation,” he said.

“They helped me because I was beside myself when Chile was sick and needed help.”

Mark is well educated and articulate, but living on the streets has worn him out.

He is tired and Perth’s long winter was rough.

There is a sense that Chile has kept Mark alive and given him a reason to keep going.

“I want to start again and I want a second chance,” he said recently in Midland Square.

“Everything aches, I’m tired.”

Mark said he just wanted a place to sleep that was safe for a few days to catch up on his sleep and feel rested.

Like many homeless people, he walks through the night and sleeps in the day for safety reasons.

But there are other problems for homeless people in Midland.

“There is no place to shower except in Maylands, which means I have to leave Chile with someone and hope he is there when I come back,” Mark said.

“If the council could offer us showers and a public toilet that wasn’t locked at night, it might be a bit easier to manage basic human functions.

“We are refugees in our own country, but refugees get three meals a day and a donga and a bed and access to a toilet and a shower once a day.

“They are treated better than the homeless in Australia,” he said.

Indigo Junction chief executive Don Tunnicliffe said there were programs that could assist Mark to get back to living under a roof.

“It’s harder for single adults in Midland as more is done for families that are homeless and homeless youth,” Mr Tunnicliffe said.

“The old boarding houses were good, they gave homeless men somewhere to shelter but all the old boarding houses in Midland are all gone now.

“It’s a housing supply that has not been replaced.”