A path home during the pandemic

Not-for-profit organisations and local heroes in Western Australia have spoken up about the homeless crisis in WA, and the pressing need to help this vulnerable group through the impact of COVID-19 in 2020.

Perth Homeless Support Group Inc. business manager and volunteer coordinator Jed Fay has warned that we might see an increase in the number of homeless people.

“We are seeing a lot of new faces at our outreach and we predict that when the extra JobSeeker payments are reduced and then stopped altogether, we will see an increase of homelessness and there will be a demand for help with other service providers as well,” Mrs Fay said.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one in 104 people in Western Australia received homeless assistance in 2018 and 2019. An estimated 9000 West Australians experienced homelessness every night, and more than 14,000 people were on the waitlist for social housing.

In August, the unemployment rate in WA was 7.9 per cent, according to the Labour Market Information Portal, one of the highest rates across the country. Since then thousands of West Australians have relied on the Federal Government’s JobSeeker and JobKeeper payment plans to help make ends meet.

Despite these plans, people who are not eligible for these payments have turned to shelters and community homes for a roof over their head.

A man left without a place to sleep in a local suburb.
The lack of support for the homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo: Dhanya Vimalan.

With growing concerns over the increase in homelessness among West Australians, local organisations and charities have tried to increase their resources and volunteered manpower.

Seeking to help the struggling Perth inner City Youth Service in providing accomodation for young people who identify as LGBTQ+ and are experiencing homelessness, Energy News Au senior journalist Paul-Alain Hunt organised the PICYS Pride Assist Fund.

“I had heard of a young LGBTI+ person who was accessing the service who had been kicked out of his home after his father found him on a dating app, he was left without a phone or any support whatsoever,” Mr Hunt said.

“When I heard about that through a friend who was a social worker, I took it upon myself to start a little fundraiser.”

To date, Mr Hunt has raised $4,901 through his GoFundMe page, with an additional $200,000 donated by a corporate sponsor, Woodside Energy.

Organisations also believed that more needs to be done by the government to help people who do not have a roof over their head.

“I think, in reality, to deal with homelessness we really need a bigger picture view, we can’t just have some buildings built or some services funded, it has got to be a whole of community approach here,” said Mr Hunt.

Similarly, Mrs Fay believes that the government should prioritise and re-evaluate where they are placing their funding.

“People are important, funding to keep people safe and healthy is important. Lives matter more than brand-new fancy zip-lines, and swimming pools in stadiums, When the government focuses more on improving things for our own people rather than for tourism, we maybe then can start to truly make a difference.”

In response to this growing crisis, the Western Australia government has organised a community plan to set directions for all level of government, business and community sectors in responding to and preventing homelessness in WA.

“All Paths Lead to a Home: Western Australia’s 10-Year Strategy on Homelessness 2020-2030” will be implemented through two Action Plans that outline implementations and provide details on how organisations and businesses should take steps to support the homeless.

Minister of Community Services Simone McGurk said she believed that this strategy would put Western Australia in a position to end homelessness:

“Ending homelessness requires us to find new approaches that focus on the needs of the individual and are less about fitting people into a system where one size clearly does not fit all.”

Categories: Community, COVID-19, Economy