Catalpa Foundation: retired Rockingham businessman hopes to provide accommodation for homeless


Owen Farmer, Michael Kiernan and Jonathan Shapiera are hoping to establish the Catalpa Foundation to provide accommodation for homeless people in Rockingham and Kwinana.
Owen Farmer, Michael Kiernan and Jonathan Shapiera are hoping to establish the Catalpa Foundation to provide accommodation for homeless people in Rockingham and Kwinana.

A RETIRED Rockingham businessman is looking to set up an organisation to help provide accommodation for homeless people in the region.

Michael Kiernan has been in talks with local homeless advocates Jonathan Shapiera and Owen Farmer to establish the Catalpa Foundation on leased land in Kwinana or Rockingham.

Mr Kiernan said the move was prompted by concerns about the number of homeless people in the region, particularly mature-aged women turning up for lunches at St Brendan’s Anglican Church in Warnbro.

“I was gobsmacked that 50 per cent of the people that turned up for luncheons at the church every Friday were women,” he said.

“And 90 per cent of them were north of 50 as a result of broken homes.

“I can’t believe that in a rich society like ours that there is no designated area that they can live in peace and safety and security and that’s our plan.”

He said the area was well serviced with organisations, groups and agencies providing homeless people with meals, clothes and food vouchers.

“But there is a lack of accommodation,” he said.

“The three of us acknowledge there is an issue regarding a designated area and we are in the process of establishing a homeless foundation.”

He said it would be named Catalpa in recognition of the historic escape to freedom made by a group of Irish political prisoners in 1876.

“We are calling it Catalpa for freedom from the streets,” Mr Kiernan said.

“Once we’re registered and established we will try and negotiate with either the Kwinana or Rockingham councils to lease some land so that it can be a designated area for the homeless people.”

He said the foundation would initially build an ablution block and look at building small houses down the track.

Mr Kiernan was hoping to get the project up and running by the first half of next year.

He said homelessness was a major issue for the region and could be dealt with by one of two ways.

“You can either address and resolve it or keep sweeping it under the table,” he said.

“We just hope that we will be able to lease some land and we will develop the park that will be a refuge for the people that don’t have homes.”

Mr Shapiera, who was homeless himself in 2014, said the number of women currently living on the streets had increased dramatically over the past two years.

“Two years ago there was probably one female to every 10 males but now we are looking at nearly five females to every 10 males,” he said.

Mr Shapiera attributed the increase to refuge shelters being full and a lack of emergency accommodation.