City of Perth Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas has doubled down on the closure of an East Perth crisis accommodation centre, calling Premier Roger Cook’s comments undermining.
The city’s Safe Night Space program has been operating from the Rod Evans Community Centre since May 2021. The facility was closed yesterday.
The closure of the shelter has attracted backlash from the community, including homelessness advocacy groups and the state government.
“I don’t know if he [Zempilas] can pick up the phone. He’s in Cape Town today, with the governor of Nairobi and deputy mayor of Los Angeles,” he said.
“He’s overseas at the time of this homelessness and support service crisis is happening.
“It’s the very thing he critiqued the prime minister for just a fortnight ago, when the prime minister went to an APEX summit.
“He’s now in a water summit in Cape Town, when here there are going to be 30 women on the streets tonight because of his decision.
“It’s clear that the mayor is focused on things other than the wellbeing and compassion for people in the City of Perth.”
In response, Mr Zempilas said the state government knew the centre was due to close after a two-year trial since November 2022.
The Safe Night Space program was slated to close in May this year but received an extension after the City of Perth council voted for the centre to continue until November 30, during a council meeting in February.
“The closure was confirmed by council in February 2023, however the council extended the service for six months through to 30 November 2023 to give the extra time needed to bring the new state government facility in West Perth online,” Mr Zempilas said.
“This has now been achieved.
“The premier’s statements are undermining our collective efforts to transition vulnerable women to other available services.”
He said the city had been working closely with the Department of Communities and Ruah Community Services, that operated Safe Night Space, on the service transition throughout 2023.
“The Department of Communities is in contact with all of the women, including access to case workers,” Mr Zempilas said.
“These women are being well supported by the Department of Communities.
“Throughout the year, the city has proposed other properties within the state government portfolio or other vacant private properties that could accommodate a similar service.
“We are now twelve months on from when the state were made aware of the service’s closure.”
The state government has offered $3.1 million funding for the shelter to continue operating, which Mr Cook said remained on the table.
“The only reason why that shelter is closing is because the City of Perth refuses to allow it to continue to operate with the support of the state government,” he said.
“This is an unacceptable situation. There’s 30 women, vulnerable women many who are homeless, many who are facing family and domestic violence circumstances, who will be on the streets of Perth tonight because of the decision of the City of Perth.
“It’s regrettable, it’s unfortunate and we now have to see what we can do to assist Ruah in providing those services.
“What I made clear is that the state government will continue to fund this service and CoP should certainly allow that service to operate in that facility.
“Even if just for a short period of time while we make other arrangements.”