22/01/2021 - 15:28

Hope for Freo's tent city

22/01/2021 - 15:28

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Community organisations are stepping up to resolve the homelessness crisis in Fremantle, with a number of local people in need offered accommodation in recent days.

Hope for Freo's tent city
Fremantle's tent city has been a political battleground this week. Photo: Jesinta Burton

Community organisations are stepping up to resolve the homelessness crisis in Fremantle, with a number of local people in need offered accommodation in recent days.

Housing pathways clinics at the St Patrick's Community Support Centre started this week, with 23 attendees over two sessions.

A majority of those 23 were residents of Fremantle’s tent encampment.

Six individuals and a family have so far been offered accommodation, according to St Patrick’s.

The clinics are intended to allow people experiencing homelessness to access multiple service providers in one location, including housing support, advocacy, and immediate support with health, food and amenities.

The tent city made headlines this week when opposition leader Zak Kirkup promised more emergency accommodation beds in the Fremantle area, while Premier Mark McGowan said beds were available and vulnerable people were being led away from appropriate service providers by disruptive protestors.

Business News reported this week that tent city residents had shared Mr Kirkup’s concerns about a lack of available beds, although it has since been confirmed some capacity is available.

Earlier today, it was reported that about 90 per cent of the people sleeping at the camp were without homes.

Also today, the City of Fremantle has reportedly committed to have the park cleared within three weeks.

St Patrick’s chief executive Michael Piu said needs went beyond bed availability.

“The challenge is it’s not just about the availability of beds,” Mr Piu said. 

“People need appropriate housing, but they also need access to a range of support services to address their often-complex histories of trauma and to help them make positive, sustainable changes in their lives. 

“These essential services, which are proven to help people on their journey to exit the cycle of chronic homelessness, include help with ID and documentation, emergency relief, financial and legal aid, trauma counselling, help to address substance abuse and treatment of chronic health conditions.

“In the absence of all these elements, we would be setting up people for failure, even with housing available.”

Housing availability

Business News has confirmed the state government has a lower social housing stock than four years ago, down from 44,087 dwellings in the 2017 financial year to be 42,932.

Department of Communities data showed the total stock of homes available was lower in the 2020 financial year than any of the previous five.

But the department said waiting lists had shrunk nonetheless.

“ It should be noted that between 2016 and 2019, the total waitlist for public housing significantly reduced by 25.6 per cent, from 18,530 to 13,795,” the department said. 

“Over the same period, wait times for public housing have reduced by an average of 58 weeks for wait turn applicants and 24 weeks for priority applicants.

“The reason for the reduction in housing stock is that a higher proportion of older, inappropriate assets were sold from 2017 onwards to better align housing stock needs with client demand. 

“Properties are also decommissioned as they reach the end of their useful life, such as Brownlie Towers which consisted of 300 apartments and was demolished in July 2019.”

About $319 million was announced in June to fund a maintenance and refurbishment program for social houses, with about 1,500 places to be covered.

The department said 250 new homes would also be delivered. 

“The circumstances leading to homelessness are often complex and varied, a spokesperson said. 

“This can include issues related to mental health, chronic health or dependence to drug and alcohol. In many circumstances, there are multiple compounding co-factors. 

“Providing short term accommodation must be combined with the appropriate wraparound support designed to address the underlying issues to result in effective outcomes.

“Communities continues to work with state government-funded homelessness services to get people experiencing homelessness the help they need as they can offer both the necessary relationships and longer-term proven capacity to deliver assistance to those requiring help.”

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