New report shows community supports action to end homelessness

The Premiers response to tent city yesterday diverted attention from the critical need for an immediate solution to the current housing crises. We know that West Australians want action on homelessness, and there is widespread support to see more measures taken to address the state’s housing crisis. 

“The latest community perceptions of housing and homelessness showed that people have increasing levels of compassion for those experiencing homelessness and want greater efforts to address this issue,” said Michelle Mackenzie, CEO of Shelter WA.

A survey, commissioned by The WA Alliance to End Homelessness, shows that

94 per cent of people believe that becoming homeless can occur outside of an individual’s control,

and 89 per cent of West Australians know that homelessness can happen to anyone. Two thirds of respondents agreed that no one chooses to be homeless (61 per cent).

“Over half of those surveyed noticed an increase in street present homeless in recent months,” Ms Mackenzie said.  Tent cities have certainly made the issues very visible to the community, but homelessness and housing insecurity has continued to rise.

“We need to take politics out of the homelessness conversation and focus on evidence-based solutions,” Ms Mackenzie said.

“People want to see our leaders work together to resolve the housing crises not political point scoring. We all know that tents are not the answer. It will take genuine collaboration, and a willingness to listen to each other and including the people who are most impacted by this issue to drive solutions. Without increased investment into social and affordable homes this issue will not be resolved and the number of West Australians living on the streets will continue to grow.”

The WA Alliance to End Homelessness, supported by the Institute of Global Homelessness re-enforced the need for all parties to come together and work on those solutions that end homelessness of which housing and wrap around support is key.

“Agencies have been working hard to understanding the individual needs of people within the tent city and ensuring they are known by name and circumstance to develop the individual solutions that are needed.

We need all parties to come together and ensure resources are targeted and address the needs of those experiencing homelessness,” said John Berger, Executive Officer of the Alliance.

“The top three suggestions for how the community can help people overcome homelessness were providing financial support and financial counselling; having more public and social housing available; and addressing underlying issues in society such as mental health and poverty.”

Survey respondents also showed a high degree of understanding, and also concern about the impact of homelessness on the individual. “There was concern about a mental health crisis across the whole of society, including depression leading to an increase in suicides. The issues leading into depression were stated as, people running out of money, unable to find work and this leading to a loss of their home and becoming homeless.”

Respondents also expressed serious concern about the impact homelessness has on society, including perceptions of an increase in crime, violence and antisocial behaviour.

Survey respondents also expressed concerns that economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic cannot be fully seen yet, particularly on housing.

“The ending of government stimulus support, such as JobKeeper and JobSeeker were seen as having a major, or even a catastrophic impact, as well as the moratorium on evictions and rent increases, which all come to an end in March 2021. There are less than 1 per cent of affordable rental properties for people on low incomes. Rents are predicted to increase by 20 per cent leading to increasing housing stress and homelessness.,” said Ms Mackenzie.

Without continued government stimulus support, respondents believed there would be an increase in demand and increased pressure placed on family, friends, charities and government services such as health and welfare.

The survey findings are significant, because they show a growing degree of understanding and compassion towards those who find themselves homeless and a strong desire to ensure there is an adequate safety net to catch people. There is a new awareness that anyone can become homeless in these uncertain times and the impact can be devastating for both the individual and society.

Shelter WA is calling on all parties to invest in an additional 2,500 new social homes per year over the next four years coupled with increased investment into affordable housing homelessness services.

With community compassion and understanding of homelessness issues increasing, and support for a strong and robust housing safety net, all sides of government should feel confident that this investment is not only the right thing to do but has widespread community support.

 

Download the full report here 

 

MEDIA COMMENT:


Michelle Mackenzie, CEO Shelter WA – 0419 931 819

Background:

The Survey was conducted in July 2020 by Know L’Edge and is published at https://www.shelterwa.org.au/community-views-on-homelessness/

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.
  • The private rental vacancy rate is 0.8 per cent – there are no private rentals affordable to people on low income.
  • Rents are predicted to rise by 20 per at the end of March when the moratorium on evictions and rent increases ends.