Homelessness forum sheds light on next steps

1 - Homelessness forum August 2 2020.jpg

On Friday, August 7, the City of Swan and Swan Rotary co-hosted a forum to call for action on Midland’s homelessness crisis.

The forum brought together government representatives as well as key stakeholders from the homelessness, business and building communities to discuss the crisis.

Attendees included Minister for Police and Member for Midland, Hon Michelle Roberts, Minister for Community Services, Hon Simone McGurk and Federal Member for Hasluck and Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt.

Discussion topics included real stories of homeless people, the impacts of COVID-19 and opportunities to create affordable, sustainable social housing.

Local leaders from charitable organisations delivered keynote speeches before a round table discussion and plenary to determine what needs to happen next.

The forum reached the consensus that Midland is facing a homelessness crisis and requires a place-specific response to address the serious shortfall in appropriate affordable housing and the critical services needed to support people experiencing homelessness.

Federal Member for Hasluck, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP committed to working with all levels of government to support those who are homeless or struggling during these unprecedented times.

“This issue is not about bipartisanship, this is about humanity,” he said.

“We must continue to work together, combining all levels of government and community to help those who are struggling during these turbulent times.

“As a community, we should embody the Rotary spirit of ‘Service Above Self’ and do our bit to ensure everyone has a fair go.”

City of Swan Mayor Kevin Bailey said Council acknowledged a homelessness crisis based on the increasing number of people experiencing homelessness in the Midland area.

“We have been pushing for more funding for social services related to homelessness and youth,” he said.

“The situation since March has deepened; if anything, COVID-19 has reinforced the need for support to help vulnerable people find a permanent pathway out of homelessness.”

Swan Rotary representative Dr Colin Hughes said the forum achieved more than what was expected.

“What was clearly demonstrated in the call to action is that we need a local regional response to the Midland homelessness crisis,” he said.

“Funding for a homes first approach must be coordinated between all levels of government and the private sector, and planned for by key local agencies with community representation, particularly from the indigenous community.”

CEO of Indigo Junction Adele Stewart said services were already stretched beyond capacity.

“Every month the Indigo Junction receives over 400 calls from people looking for accommodation and support for their families,” she said.

“We don’t expect to see the true impact of COVID-19 until the moratorium on evictions is lifted, but already we see an average of ten individuals a week who have become homeless as a result of the pandemic.

“We desperately need more resources to meet the demand.”

In 2019, Indigo Junction and the City surveyed people experiencing homelessness in Midland to help build a profile of homelessness in the area.

The survey gathered information on 149 people experiencing homelessness in Midland, including 52 children.

The responses showed:

  • Families make up 27 per cent of Midland’s homeless compared to just two per cent in Perth and seven per cent in Fremantle.
  • Of the families identified in Midland, 92 per cent are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
  • On average, individuals had been homeless for 5.9 years.
  • One in four individuals considered they had a learning or development disability.
  • 279 visits to hospital emergency departments in the last six months.
  • 55 per cent experienced trauma or abuse they have not sought help for.
  • When asked what individuals needed to be safe and well, overwhelmingly 85 per cent of answers featured a home.
Homelessness forum 7 August 2020

Pictured left to right: Chantal Caruso (Cleanstate Senior Policy Analyst), Ursula Dixon (Dreambuilders Local Care Services Director), Hon Michelle Roberts (Minister for Police and Member for Midland), Hon Simone McGurk (Minister for Community Services), Sarah Patterson (Midlas Chief Executive Officer), Dr Colin Hughes (Swan Rotary), Michelle Blakeley (My Homes Project Lead and Architect), Lisa Kazalac (Shelter WA Head of Policy and Sector Development).

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