According to advocacy group Shelter WA, in 2020 more than 9,000 West Australians experienced homelessness every night. Data also showed more than 14,000 households on the waitlist for social housing; which translated into a wait time of over two years.
As the cost of living soars and the state experiences its most severe wet weather storms yet, experts across the board are calling for housing reform.
Professor Lisa Wood is a researcher in evidence-led advocacy to solve homelessness and says WA needs to mimic its national counterparts for enduring extreme weather.
As part of Homelessness Week, Professor Wood delivered a speech at today’s Housing Symposium in Perth on the changing climate, and housing as a determinant of health.
She says the current heavy rain and battering winds contribute to a range of hospital stays and long term medical conditions, and other national and international government bodies have developed responses to this.
“In New South Wales [during extreme weather] there’s a state wide response, there’s additional resourcing, there’s a lot of promotion about where homeless people can go to get support whereas here, we don’t have anything like that,” she says.
Chief executive at St Patrick’s Michael Piu says the current cost of living crisis and extreme wet weather season has compounded to create a living crisis in Perth.
“We know from the evidence that if we give people a stable home, everything flows from that,” he says.
He says within the locality of Fremantle there are up to 718 people experiencing homelessness and 280 of those are rough sleeping, a number far greater than the capacity of St Patrick’s accommodation services.
St Patrick’s Community Centre is a not for profit providing housing and services for those experiencing homelessness and opened up its doors the last three nights to welcome those sheltering from the streets.
Its day centre in Fremantle is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The space includes meals, showering facilities, health services and a range of specialist services including mental health access.
Professor Wood says crisis service centres are reaching their full capacity, and there is increasing concern surrounding the availability of short-term accommodation stays for those facing a night on the streets.