Homelessness addressed

Photo: Shutterstock.
Photo: Shutterstock.

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Residents and stakeholders from the region have called for the state government's new housing plan to better care for those most vulnerable in a bid to address the South West's 'homelessness crisis'.

The issues were raised during a Homelessness Forum hosted by ShelterWA in Bunbury on Wednesday, October 16, and are expected to inform the organisation's pre-budget submission for the state government's 10-year housing strategy.

When asked how the issue should be addressed in the region, respondents called for detailed geographical data of homelessness,appropriate and diverse housing that meets demand and less complex housing application processes and criteria.

Others voiced a desire to see greater support for those most vulnerable, predominantly youth, with more short-term and transitional crisis accommodation, new approaches to community housing, a reduction in waiting lists and better funding.

Above all, respondents stressed the need to address that homelessness was not a standalone issue, a call that was echoed by the chief executive of the region's leading service provider.

Although there is limited data on the extent of homelessness in the South-West, Accordwest chief executive Nicole Gibbs said there was definitely a homelessness crisis - evidenced by the lengthy waitlists for crisis accommodation in the region.

Ms Gibbs put much of the escalating demand for support services for housing, children in care and prisoners preparing for release down to the methamphetamine epidemic sweeping the country.

With the link between homelessness and other social issues, including mental health and drug addiction, very strong, Ms Gibbs said a coordinated approach would better address all pieces of the puzzle.

"If you have a mental health disorder, and you don't have resources available to you to address those issues, you cannot maintain housing," she said.

"How do you maintain a house, pay the rent and pay for electricity when you are addicted to methamphetamine?

"We could build thousands of housing, but it doesn't mean people will be able to maintain that tenancy.

"The image that most people have of homelessness is rough sleepers, but they are a very small percentage of a much larger group of homeless people.

"I believe that what needs to be addressed is the fact that homelessness is one piece of a very large jigsaw puzzle.

"If we don't find the other pieces of that puzzle, we are not going to be able to address homelessness.

"It really is about an integrated response and departments working in synergy for a service delivery model.

"Everyone needs to work together, but the funding needs to reflect that as well."

In April 2018, Accordwest opened a share house for youth in Busselton, which accommodates up to five people at any one time and sees staff work with them over a three-month period to secure stable accommodation.

The draft Housing Strategy 2020-2030 is expected to be released in early 2020, supported by an Affordable Housing Plan, a Regional and Remote Plan and a Social Housing Plan.