Being homeless is no picnic

As tents cities continue to gain attention across Western Australia, homelessness services continue to work quietly and professionally behind the scenes to understand each person’s individual circumstance as the first step to assisting Perth’s rough sleepers.

“The homelessness crisis has revealed the wide-spread and genuine community concern for people who are doing it tough. We need to focus energy and collective efforts on evidence-based solutions that will end homelessness,” said Michelle Mackenzie, CEO of Shelter WA.

“Homelessness is no picnic in the park. Tent cities cannot ensure safety and well-being nor are they sustainable.”

The health and well-being of vulnerable people living in the parks is at the heart of the community service sector response.

“Whilst demands may be made, and services criticised, services are taking an evidence-based approach to this complex social issue and are not comprising people’s safety and wellbeing.”

Western Australia has a first-class homelessness strategy developed by government in partnership with community services and people experiencing homelessness. Underpinned by the Housing First model, the strategy prioritises the provision of safe and permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness coupled with services to support each person’s specific needs.

“The Perth based 50 lives for 50 homes Housing First Program has provided stable long-term housing and service support for hundreds of people who were living rough on the streets,” said Ms Mackenzie. “With the right approach and investment, and a collaborative approach we can address this complex social issue.”

“Whilst housing and support are critical, the 50 lives 50 homes program shows the deep response needed to create long term sustainable change. This program centred on each person’s needs does not just provide a home. By creating hope, building relationships of trust, ensuring housing and services are culturally appropriate and responsive, and importantly staying the course when things get tough or go off the rails, it delivers long term, sustainable housing outcomes.”

“We should be incredibly proud of the services who work tirelessly outside of the spotlight delivering results that profoundly change the lives of individuals, families and communities.” said Ms Mackenzie.

“If we can align the incredible goodwill of the community and volunteers, with homelessness services driven by the individual needs of people experiencing homelessness, together we will make a positive impact.”

“Through the leadership of Minister McGurk there has been new investment in housing first initiatives, but we know that some of these will take time to be realised.  In response to the current housing crises, investment into interim housing solutions that rapidly get people off the streets and onto pathways for a permanent home are welcome and needed now.

“Unfortunately, successive governments have dropped the ball on social housing which impacts on the ability of services to deliver long term housing outcomes,” said Ms Mackenzie. “With over 15,000 people on the waitlist for social housing, and over 1,000 people living on the streets, increased and sustained investment into social housing is an absolute priority.”

Shelter WA urgently calls on the government to invest in an additional 2,500 new social homes per year over the next four years coupled with increased investment into homelessness services.

“Housing First will not work if there isn’t enough social and affordable housing to meet need. This investment is needed as a bare minimum if we are to end homelessness and everyone in WA has a place to call home.”

About – Shelter WA

Shelter WA is the independent peak body in Western Australia that advocates for social and affordable housing and ending homelessness. Our vision is that all people living in Western Australia have housing that enables them to thrive.

Fast Facts

  • Between 50-100 people are living in tents in the centre of Fremantle.
  • Over 9,000 people experience homelessness every day across WA.
  • Over 4,100 people access specialist homelessness services every day.
  • Over 40 who experienced homeless died on the streets in 2020.
  • Over 15,000 people are on the wait list for social housing.
  • There is a shortfall of 39,200 social and 19,300 affordable homes across Western Australia to meet current need.

For media comment

Michelle Mackenzie, CEO Shelter WA – 0419 931 819