How can we continue to turn a blind eye, when the homeless are hidden no more?

As another tent city springs to life, the government needs to get serious and stop playing whack-a-mole with Western Australia’s housing and homelessness crises.

“Homelessness is not a game or a political exercise,” said Michelle Mackenzie, CEO of Shelter WA. “Homelessness impacts on people’s health, well-being and their livelihood.

Over forty people died on the streets in 2020.

They have paid the ultimate price because we do not have a strong, robust social housing system providing homes for people in need.”

“The latest tent city in Fremantle is just the visible tip of the homelessness iceberg,” said Ms Mackenzie.  “Over 9,000 people experience homelessness every night, including around 1,000 people who sleep rough. This latest Tent City has shown us their faces, their names and the impact of the lack of social and affordable homes on their lives.”

“The community compassion towards people who are homeless can be seen through the many volunteers in Fremantle who are providing food to people who are living in tents,’ said Ms Mackenzie. “Whilst this support is amazing, we need to end the cycle of homelessness. This will only happen with a strategic, systemic response by government in partnership with the community services sector. And this response must start with new investment into a strong and robust social housing system.”

“COVID-19 reinforced the importance of a home to stay healthy and well, exposing the cracks in our social housing system. With over 15,000 people on the waitlist for social housing, without new investment into social homes, where are the homes for people living in tents?”

The McGowan government is investing in positive initiatives including two Common Ground facilities to provide supported accommodation for people who sleep rough, but these will take years to build.

Last year’s announcement of $3.8M to provide homes for the people living in tents in East Perth was very welcome but will only assist a handful of people in need.

“We need more than iterative investment driven by tents,’ said Ms Mackenzie.  “Whilst we have homelessness and housing strategies, they lack the sustained, ongoing investment needed to bring them to life.

“Social housing need is great and will only increase during 2021. We are acutely concerned not only for people who are homeless today – but those expected to face homelessness as a result of the lifting of the moratorium on rent increases and evictions in March, coupled with the end of JobKeeper and cuts to JobSeeker” said Ms Mackenzie.

A mixture of short and long term solutions are needed to end homelessness and address our housing crises.  “At a minimum we need an additional 2,500 new social homes per year over the next four years” said Ms Mackenzie, “coupled with increased investment into homelessness services.”

“The homelessness services sector could provide pathways to permanent housing for people living on the streets today if the homes were available,” said Ms Mackenzie.

“As a society, how can we continue to turn a blind eye when the homeless are hidden no more?”

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

  • Around 100 people who are homeless 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 people who were 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
  • $3.8M of funding announced in December 2020 by the McGowan Government to provide homes for the people living in the East Perth Tent City.

For media comment

Michelle Mackenzie, CEO Shelter WA – 0419 931 819