A band-aid on an axe wound

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to fall in WA, the homeless population of Perth feels the state government is not doing enough to protect them during the pandemic.

ShelterWA has received feedback from rough sleepers around Perth who believe they have been abandoned and betrayed by the government.

Of the estimated 1000 rough sleepers in WA, 63 were provided temporary accomodation through the program ‘Hotels with Hearts’.

The program aimed to provide spaces in which the homeless could self-isolate given the risk posed to them by coronavirus.

The Pan Pacific Hotel took in 20 people and Discovery Park Woodman Point housed 43 but the program ended on May 1.

According to ShelterWA the program did not do enough to address the serious housing issues facing low-income families and homeless people.

However, Ruah executive manager Mark Slatterly says there are positives to take from the program.

“It was about addressing a health issue first and foremost, rather than a homelessness issue.

“Over the 28-day trial there were some outstanding health outcomes – including none of the participants being diagnosed with COVID-19,” he says.

Mr Slatterly says none of the people housed were mistreated afterwards.

“No one was pushed back onto the street and housing was identified for all participants who completed the program,” he says.

Many homeless people in Perth are still out on the streets in the middle of a pandemic. Photo: Ben Loughran.

Professor Paul Flatau of the Centre for Social Impact says the bigger issues which contribute to homelessness need just as much attention as housing.

“Those with mental health issues are going to be under greater stress, anxiety and depression will worsen,” he says.

“… the face-to-face support given to mental health issues and drug and alcohol abusers has been non-existent for the last two months.

“Many of these people rely on that face-to-face service.”

Worse still is the longevity of these services, says Professor Flatau.

“These types of programs don’t tend to last very long, once the money runs out the service ends,” he says.

Rough sleepers are looking at a winter on the streets. Photo: Ben Loughran.

To add to all of this, some worry there’s a very real possibility thousands more people will become homeless in the coming months.

The CSI found through economic contractions created by COVID-19 there are as many as 1 million people not eligible for the JobKeeper allowance.

These low-income families are facing the daunting hardship of losing everything as they are not receiving any income and cannot find work.

The writing is on the wall as ShelterWA points out. Post by ShelterWA facebook.