More than 700 South West women on public housing wait list

Community Services Minister Simone McGurk announced a $34.5 million initiative to house to house 20 individuals or families who are rough sleeping each year in Bunbury. Image supplied.
Community Services Minister Simone McGurk announced a $34.5 million initiative to house to house 20 individuals or families who are rough sleeping each year in Bunbury. Image supplied.

More than 700 women in the South West are on the public housing wait list, of which 48 are priority listed, according to data from the Department of Communities.

Last week, the Mail reported that YWCA National Housing found that nearly one in ten women living in regional WA had been homeless in the past five years.

Accordwest housing and homelessness manager Sydwell Madziva said the supply and demand for accommodation, social housing and community housing was a structural and systemic challenge.

"Stock is not readily available to meet demand," he said.

"A question needs to be posed to Australia: Is social housing meant to be permanent or lifelong housing?

"As people don't move out of social housing into some form of home ownership, this creates a bottleneck for those coming through the system.

"More emergency and crisis accommodation is needed in the South West, more transitional housing options are needed in the South West and more housing stock in social housing, community housing and other supported programs are needed.

"With timely wrap-around supports, people will be supported to build life-skills and capacity to secure long term tenancy in the future."

WA Government's 10 year strategy to address homelessness

In December, the State Government announced a $71.8 million homelessness investment package to support the implementation of All Paths Lead to a Home: Western Australia's 10-Year Strategy on Homelessness.

A Department of Communities spokesperson said the next step for the strategy included the accelerated roll out of the Housing First Homelessness Initiative.

The spokesperson said this would use private rental subsidies to quickly house individuals and families experiencing homelessness with wrap around supports.

"Under this $34.5 million initiative, Bunbury has been named as a site for implementation," the spokesperson said.

The initiative to address homelessness in Bunbury has been brought forward to provide rough sleepers with stable housing and support.

Department of Communities had commenced negotiations to appoint Ruah Community Services as the coordinating body - or 'backbone' - of the project.

Under the initiative, funding will be delivered for private rental subsidies to house 20 individuals or families each year.

The funding will also employ additional case workers to identify and work alongside people experiencing homelessness, engage them with support services and work to address the issues that led to them becoming homeless.

The Housing First model puts safe and permanent housing as the first priority for people experiencing homelessness.

Once that housing is secured, a multidisciplinary team of support workers can address more complex needs such as mental illness and drug and alcohol issues.

Participants are supported to stay in housing as they work towards recovery and reintegration with the community at their own pace.

Community Services Minister Simone McGurk said homelessness was an issue right across the country, and sadly Bunbury and the South-West were not immune from this.

"Unmet demand for homelessness accommodation in Bunbury made it an early candidate for the $34.5 million Housing First Homelessness Initiative," she said.

"There is significant work happening across government and the community services sector to address the needs of vulnerable people in this time of need."

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam hopes as part of the initiative that a case worker would be placed in Busselton where no support services are based.

While she welcomed the initiative, Ms Mettam said it was crucial that in the absence of any support in the City of Busselton locality that this and other support services were easily accessible.

"I am aware that access is an issue and I have been calling for an assessment of needs in the region and to look at how we can better interlink with other services," she said.

"Part of the Homelessness Initiative is to employ additional case workers to identify and work alongside people experiencing homelessness and I am hopeful that at least one will be based in the Busselton region."