We need housing first to house the homeless – tents are not the answer

As community compassion spreads for people who are living in tents, the enormous outpouring of concern and people willing to lend a hand over the holiday period demonstrates the Western Australian spirit of care and generosity at its best.

“Whilst this support is amazing, we need to end the cycle of homelessness, so people have a home and access to the services they need,’ said Michelle Mackenzie, CEO of Shelter WA.

“Tents are not the answer. We will only end homelessness through a strategic, systemic investment response by government in partnership with the community services sector supported by the community.

Every day over 4,100 people in Western Australia rely on homelessness services for support. “Homelessness impacts on people’s health and well-being. Homelessness services do an incredible job not only providing access to people’s immediate needs such as a food, healthcare and showers but importantly they work closely with people to understand why they are homelessness and what each person needs to break this cycle.

“There is strong evidence of how to end homelessness,” said Ms Mackenzie.

“WA has a first-class homelessness strategy underpinned by the Housing First model, which prioritises the provision of safe and permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness along with services to address each person’s specific needs. The 50 lives for 50 homes project, centred in housing first, has successfully provided stable long-term housing and service support for hundreds of people who have been living on the streets,” said Ms Mackenzie.

“With more social housing and investment into services we could end homelessness for the 9,000 people who experience homelessness across our State,” said Ms Mackenzie.

“The McGowan Government under the leadership of Minister McGurk is investing in important initiatives such as Common Ground facilities, a suite of housing first initiatives and new money to resolve the tent city crises. However, with over 15,000 people on the waitlist for social housing, and over 1,000 people living on the streets, we urge the government to increase investment into a strong and robust social housing system.”

“The community and volunteers have an important role to play in ending homelessness.” said Ms Mackenzie. “I would encourage anybody with an interest to connect with local homelessness services who have professional skills and knowledge and work closely with people with lived experience of homelessness.

There are many volunteering opportunities across the State, and volunteers make an enormous impact and change lives.”

The health, safety and well-being of people experiencing homelessness is paramount. We know that tents are not the answer to ending homelessness or delivering good outcomes for people.

People need a safe and permanent home and access to the services they require.

“A mix of short and long term solutions, are needed now to end homelessness and address our housing crises” said Ms Mackenzie. “We call 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 if everybody is to have a place to call home in WA.”

 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 70 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 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.

For media comment

Michelle Mackenzie, CEO Shelter WA – 0419 931 819