Carparks for the homeless

The City of Perth is discussing using unused car parks in the CBD to provide overnight shelter for the homeless.

The council voted unanimously on Tuesday to investigate whether the initiative would be possible.

Perth Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas says the initiative will form part of the Rough Sleeper Action Plan. Video: City of Perth.

Perth homelessness numbers are rising, with the number of rough sleepers in the CBD increasing by 50 per cent in the past six months.

Quick Facts:

–          More than 9000 people experience homelessness every day, including 1000 people who are sleeping rough

–          More than 420 people are known to be sleeping rough in the Perth and Fremantle regions today

–          More than 4,100 people access specialist homelessness services every day

Shelter WA statistics.

The peak housing and homeless body Shelter WA says COVID-19 has triggered a surge in requests for assistance by people experiencing homelessness.

Shelter WA’s Media Advisor Chantal Caruso says service providers are struggling to keep up with the numbers of people who are sleeping rough pleading for accommodation. 

“They are getting an increased volume of people needing assistance and accommodation but they have nowhere for them to go.

Some services have closed their waiting lists because they have nowhere to send them.”

The use of carparks as a place to sleep overnight provides a temporary solution to the issue.

An unused car park can be transformed into a place to sleep for the homeless. Left photo: Paige Busher. Right: Beddown.

Ms Caruso says Shelter WA is looking forward to working with the council on permanent solutions.

“We’ve got all of these emergency things happening such as car parks being declared as places to sleep and people being sent to hotels but there is no permanent solution to cope with the volume we are seeing and that’s what we are calling for.

“There is a record vacancy rate of commercial buildings and we think it would be a much more sustainable and permanent solution to maybe have a look at those rather than carparks as a permanent solution for housing.”

Mission Australia Executive Ben Carblis is also advocating for a long-term solution to the issue.

“Still far too many people are suffering with the pressures of rental stress and are on the brink of homelessness.

“Many others have already been pushed into homelessness – many for the first time in their lives – and the accommodation options simply aren’t there for all those who need them.”

Shelter WA Media Advisor Chantal Caruso says the initiative is only a temporary measure. Video: Paige Busher.

Beddown is a not for profit organisation in Brisbane that introduced the initiative in 2019.

The organisation repurposes privately owned parking lots that are left vacant at night into pop-up accommodation for the homeless.

Each night a team of volunteers sets up beds complete with sheets, blankets, pillows, clean clothes and hygiene and care products.

Beddown Founder Norman McGillivray says car parks provide easily accessible spacious, secure, and safe places for the homeless.

The City of Perth is set to report back next month on how the initiative could be achieved.

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