‘No options’ for homeless

Pierra WillixSound Telegraph
Homeless camp, East Rockingham.
Camera IconHomeless camp, East Rockingham. Credit: The West Australian

A shanty town hidden in bush in East Rockingham has become a makeshift community for people who can’t afford to live anywhere else and say there are no accommodation options for them locally.

The Sound Telegraph reported last week people living at the camp had been issued a move-on notice because of the camp’s location near industry and after the report, met with some of the camp’s residents, who said they felt invisible to the outside world.

They said a rising cost of living, limited allowances and a lack of crisis accommodation had left them homeless.

Many grew up locally and said sleeping rough in bush was their only way to stay in the area.

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Garry Eves, chief executive of local homelessness advocacy group the CREW, said there was a “massive” need for accommodation in the area, and that the organisation had to refer those in need to shelters in Fremantle and the city, as there was none locally.

Shelter WA chief executive Michelle Mackenzie said the number of people accessing specialist homelessness services in Rockingham had increased 33 per cent over the past three years.

Ms Mackenzie said 2087 people were on the wait list for social housing in Perth’s south-west, with the average wait two and a half years.

“We know this leads to overcrowding, couch surfing, people living in their cars or camping because they cannot get a house,” she said.

“A single person on Newstart receives $277 each week, while the median rent for a one to two-bedroom house in Rockingham is $240 a week. There is not enough social and affordable housing and support services in this region.”

One Nation Senator Peter Georgiou met residents at the makeshift camp last week, and said he was “shocked” to see squat camps in the bush in 2019.

Despite calls from Mr Georgiou for Premier Mark McGowan to visit the camp, the Telegraph understands there are no plans for him to do so.

The land is owned by the State Government development agency LandCorp, which two weeks ago issued the residents a 48-hour move-on notice to force them out, but this has yet to be enforced.

Rockingham police said they were working with the City of Rockingham and LandCorp on the matter.

Brand MHR Madeleine King said in a country like Australia, “homelessness shouldn’t be an issue”. “Like many locals, I am very concerned there are people in our area who don’t have a roof over their heads,” she said.

Greens candidate for Brand Jody Freeman has called on candidates from both major parties to commit to increasing the rate of Newstart as a starting point to address the homelessness crisis.

“We have to address housing if we are going to get to the heart of disadvantage and break the cycle of poverty in our community but to bring some much-needed urgent relief to people in our community living on the lowest incomes, increasing Newstart is the first urgent step,” she said.

A proposal to establish transitional housing in Shoalwater for men at risk of homelessness by St Patrick’s Community Support Centre is facing strong opposition from residents, with Rockingham councillors set to vote on the matter next week.

City officers have recommended the shelter’s approval.

Rockingham Mayor Barry Sammels said there were no plans for City representatives to go to the camp and meet those living there, but the City was involved in co-ordinating a case management response with the Salvation Army Outreach Workers, WA Homeless Advocate and Street Chaplain.

According to the City’s homelessness directory, the only local crisis accommodation is women’s refuges and facilities for young people.

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