Women-only shelter to open as homelessness spikes

Women-only shelter to open as homelessness spikes

SAINT Benedicts will open a women’s-only lodging shelter in Burswood next year as the number of women finding themselves without safety, security and a home address continues to climb across Perth.

It’s estimated women now make up 42 per cent of Perth’s homeless population, with about 500 likely sleeping on the streets each night.

Authorities fear that number is on the rise, with domestic violence, lack of money or health issues the primary factors.

Saint Benedicts is preparing to refurbish a vacant lodging house in Burswood.

“They’ve got such traumatic life events that have led them to a life on the streets and not having a bed,” Saint Benedicts Homeless Foundation director Larissa Muir said.

“And there are limited spaces for women to go, outside of domestic violence centres, where they can really ground themselves and then work to build up their lives again.”

The Burswood facility will be a first for the area, providing women with medium-term accommodation for six to 12 months.

It will deliberately assimilate into the local community to provide crucial opportunities to help people reconnect and access training, education and employment opportunities.

Town of Victoria Park councillor Karen Vernon, who is also heavily involved with St Vincent de Paul’s homeless and mental health outreach, supports the suburban location.

She said women on Perth streets face risks and challenges on a nightly basis, including reports of a rising number of assaults and sexual assaults.

Women on Perth streets face sexual assault.

“Frighteningly, women who are already super vulnerable and probably just trying to find themselves a corner or shelter are now finding themselves at even greater risk,” Cr Vernon said.

“Since Tom Fisher House opened in Perth we have seen a growing cohort of women and a growing number aged over 60, and that’s a very vulnerable time.

“It gives rise that more and more communities are being faced with the prospects of development or redevelopment for accommodation for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.”

Saint Benedicts is preparing to refurbish a vacant lodging house in Burswood so the shelter has fewer, but larger rooms more suitable for women and potentially, their children.

The makeover will more than halve the number of beds available at the facility to 34.

Women now make up 42 per cent of Perth’s homeless population. Picture: iStock

Saint Benedicts Homeless Foundation chairman Michael Kiernan said the shelter would support women, not just with a bed, but with access to counselling and employment services.

“All we are doing is giving pre-qualified women a safe space to sleep and a way back into society,” he said.

Town of Victoria Park Mayor Trevor Vaughan, who lives in the same street as the shelter, assured neighbours who attended last week’s council meeting that fears about safety, security and street parking would be looked at.

Cr Ronhhda Potter hoped Saint Benedicts’ expertise could be used to tackle wider homelessness issues in the area.