The latest comprehensive ‘Ending Homelessness in Western Australia’ report being released by the WA Alliance to End Homelessness and Centre for Social Impact at The University of Western Australia paints a sober picture of a lack of progress across seven targets to end homelessness in WA.
The report found at present, homelessness outcomes are not improving and there is a long way to go before we achieve the overall goal of ending homelessness.
“We have strongly supported the Western Australian Government’s adoption of an end homelessness agenda, commitments to increase the social housing stock and a Housing First approach in its Housing First Homelessness Initiative. The Western Australian Government has also recognised the critical role of Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations in ending homelessness in its recently announced Housing First projects,” Report co-author Professor Paul Flatau said.
“The initiatives of the Western Australian Government are critical at this time as our examination of recent trends on homelessness and the current state of play of homelessness in Western Australia in this Report highlights just how far we need to go. There is a long way to go before we achieve our targets and the overall goal of ending homelessness. It will take some time before the current range of measures may impact on homelessness outcomes,” Professor Paul Flatau said.
“We’re still seeing a very high rate in Aboriginal Homelessness, and very worrying numbers overall in the regions,” Professor Paul Flatau said.
The report found limited progress against the seven targets of the WA Alliance to End Homelessness has been made, if at all. The WA Government’s recent new funding initiatives and social housing commitments are therefore very timely.
“The evidence in this comprehensive report shows numbers not moving in right direction against our own targets,” WA Alliance to End Homelessness Executive Officer John Berger said.
“We’re not seeing the reduction in homelessness the Alliance has been aiming for and we are not tracking to our hard target to end homelessness by 2028. The numbers are not reducing but increasing slightly,” he said.
“We’ve seen significant funding into the Housing First strategy, and a number of proven initiatives (Advance to Zero and Common Ground). But the homeless numbers are increasing, which is why we need more work in this area. The Housing First model is moving us in the right direction, but we need more housing, and we need more being done in the prevention and early intervention areas,” John Berger said.
“Our review of the Advance to Zero data for Western Australia also highlights the fact that, for those experiencing homelessness, particularly those who have had long periods rough sleeping, the level of need is particularly high,” Professor Paul Flatau said.
- Overall homelessness numbers have increased.
- A higher proportion of the population are experiencing homelessness in the regions compared with metropolitan Perth.
- There is still a significant over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Western Australian homeless population, but progress is being made.
- The number of people accessing Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) has increased significantly.
- The number of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander clients who are homeless/at risk of homeless accessing Specialist Homelessness Services has increased.
- There is a critical need to focus on early onset child, adolescent and youth homelessness; and on holistic, preventative and early intervention approaches.
Where to From Here?
The report acknowledges much has been done and praises the shift in government strategy and energy towards the Housing First model, with initiatives including The Zero Project, Moorditj Mia, and the My Home – St Patrick’s Partnership.
The lack of funding and ‘perennial lack of certainty around funding and responsibilities’ at the federal level is a constraint that must be addressed in order to progress towards ending homelessness in Western Australia.
Efforts to address primary homelessness (rough sleeping) are heavily contingent on the availability of housing stock and the report points to an increase in social housing stock and affordable rentals being critical in this regard.
“We’ve spent a lot of time establishing the building blocks, the next step is to scale and build on what’s already being done today including to ensure there are appropriate housing options for people to go to and it’s only then that we’ll start to see a turning in the figures,” John Berger said.
The report also highlights the need to see a flow of impact investing funds into low-cost affordable housing and point to interest from developers, architects, community housing providers and innovators in the housing industry to increase the supply of affordable housing, and there is a role for government in helping to support matching the various parties together.
The report warns that more needs to be done in the areas of youth and family-based homelessness, and prevention and early intervention.
A renewed focus on high rates of homelessness in outer regional and more remote areas of Western Australia is also required.
“There is a critical need going forward to focus on early onset child, adolescent and youth homelessness,” Professor Flatau said.
“Half of all adults currently experiencing homelessness were homeless before 18, so it’s really important to focus on teenagers and children right now to ‘turn off the tap’ and reduce high numbers of homelessness in future generations. The return on investment is huge when spent on children and teenagers,” he said.
In 2018, the Western Australian Alliance to End Homelessness (WAAEH) released a 10-year strategy to end homelessness through a community-based response. Following the release of the Strategy, the WA Government released its Homelessness Strategy for 2020–2030, All Paths Lead to a Home, included a shift to a Housing First approach seeks to rapidly connect people experiencing homelessness with long-term, permanent housing without preconditions.
Since 2018, the Centre for Social Impact at The University Western Australia has worked closely with the Department of Communities (Communities), and the WAAEH to produce research that informs and progresses Western Australia’s efforts to end homelessness.
Read the report here.
Report author Paul Flatau and Alliance to End Homelessness Executive Officer John Berger are available by contacting Chantal.
Shelter WA Media Contact: Chantal Caruso 0447 201 377.