Cities of Wanneroo and Joondalup adopt Regional Homelessness Plan

Stock image.
Stock image.

THE cities of Wanneroo and Joondalup have developed a Regional Homelessness Plan in a combined effort to prevent and respond to homelessness.

The plan has been two years in the making and was formally adopted by both councils at their meetings last week.

The cities have worked collaboratively to build an understanding of homelessness throughout the region, which has included input from those who have an interest in the wellbeing of people at risk of homelessness or are currently experiencing homelessness.

The plan, which will be reviewed, evaluated and reported on annually, highlights that collaboration with the Federal, State and neighbouring local governments, homeless support services, community organisations and other relevant stakeholders is paramount to ensure people experiencing homelessness are provided with an effective and coordinated response.

It aims to outline how the two cities will address homelessness through a role of coordination, support and advocacy, with the aspiration to end homelessness.

This includes targeting prevention and early intervention, increasing the accuracy and availability of information that connects people to services and support, working with stakeholders and providers to maximise use of community resources, increasing community awareness and understanding, collecting accurate, relevant data to inform decision-making and ensuring people experiencing homelessness are treated with dignity and respect.

While Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Census data from 2016 indicates 0.08 per cent of the City of Joondalup’s population experiences homelessness, the City’s own research has found this number to be much higher.

Meanwhile data for the City of Wanneroo found 0.18 per cent of the population was experiencing homelessness, though the geographical spread of the City makes it difficult to determine an estimate of people sleeping rough.

HAND (Homeless, at risk, needy, disadvantaged) founder Tanya Cairns gave a deputation at the Wanneroo council meeting about the support the group has provided people across the northern suburbs over the past five years.

HAND founder Tanya Cairns provides toiletries, food and essentials to people who are homeless. Picture: Martin Kennealey d487706

She said the grassroots group helped about 300 people who were homeless or at risk of being homeless in the cities of Wanneroo, Joondalup, Stirling and Swan.

“We need more services,” she said.

The Merriwa resident welcomed the regional plan and said there needed to be more structural supports in the northern corridor, including affordable and transitional housing.

She said men’s refuges were also needed, as the closest facilities were in Highgate and Maylands, and men who left the Perth CBD because they did not feel safe on the streets there did not want to go back that way.

“Those refuges are always full,” she said.

Ms Cairns said while there were more women’s refuges, there were not enough, and she had one woman on her books who was staying in a private carpark with her four children, while others were sharing rooms and facilities in refuges.

As well as building more refuges, she said solutions could include the tiny house program to provide affordable accommodation.

At the Joondalup meeting, now Balcatta resident Chris Carlyon said he had previously been homeless in the City of Joondalup and commended the plan.

He said the best approach was to help those experiencing homelessness get in touch with various providers including Department of Housing, Centrelink and job providers.

Mr Carlyon, who now runs his own business, said the City helped him get back on his feet.

“I have nothing but the utmost respect for the City and churches,” he said.

“It breaks my heart seeing people go through what I went through.

“No one should be homeless in this day and age.”

He said he would also be happy to volunteer his time to help those who needed it.

The City of Joondalup has a protocol that guides staff on the process for reporting rough sleepers and how to engage with a person experiencing homelessness.

Joondalup Mayor Albert Jacob said while there was no specific mandate for Local Government to play a major role in addressing homelessness, through its planning, health, community development and regulatory powers, it could facilitate positive local and regional responses.

“Local Government is largely considered to be the sphere of government closest to the people, responsible for the wellbeing of communities through the provision of infrastructure, services and regulation,” he said.

“Sometimes all it takes is a change in circumstances and any one of us could become homeless.

“The cities of Joondalup and Wanneroo are working together on a united approach to end homelessness in the region and we believe implementation of this plan will bring positive and long-lasting results.”

Wanneroo Mayor Tracey Roberts said homelessness had the potential to reach all corners of the community.

“This plan has a clear vision to empower those who can make a difference, which gives us hope that, by everybody working together, we can tackle the issue at every level,” she said.

“By furthering our understanding of the root causes and forging meaningful relationships in the local community, we can make a crucial day-to-day difference through prevention, early intervention and effective, long-term response strategies.”