Around 100 homeless people are now camped out in Fremantle’s main public park with no sign of movement from the Western Australian Government to assist them into housing.
The first of roughly 50 tents emerged on Boxing Day, and without homes to go to, the camp — which is in a prominent spot on Fremantle’s main strip — won’t be moving any time soon.
With 15,000 families waiting for public housing in Western Australia, the Fremantle homeless camp is only the most recent manifestation of a long-standing emergency.
Two homeless people’s camps are also under bridges in East Perth, near McIver train station.
With about 1,000 people sleeping rough in Perth every night, the shortage of both emergency accommodation and long-term public housing is having a significant impact across the State.
Jesse Noakes, a spokesperson for House the Homeless WA, said the problem is “entirely of the State Government’s making”.
“They have been negligent in their response to WA’s unfolding housing crisis, and have botched their response by ignoring the root cause of WA’s homelessness crisis — a catastrophic shortage of social housing,” he said.
“The recent announcement that the residents of Tent City in Perth CBD will be delivered supported transitional accommodation left Fremantle swinging in the sea breeze. Perth and Mandurah will now receive short term fixes while Fremantle’s homelessness crisis continues to unravel right on its doorstep.
“The number of homeless people living in Fremantle has almost tripled since COVID, when they were abandoned on empty streets. The Freo Street Kitchen and Camp Out is to be commended for providing essential food, shelter and sanitation — and, most importantly, security, stability and community.”
He said the number of families on the public housing waitlist is “set to skyrocket” come March as moratoriums on rents and evictions are lifted.
Mervyn Eades, CEO of Ngalla Maya Aboriginal Corporation, said while it was “heart-warming” to see something given to homeless people during the festive season, it was sad to see so many homeless people in such a rich State in one of the richest countries globally.
“The government also needs to come to the forefront and house these people in emergency accommodation in the short term. There are families with children down there at the Freo camp. This should not be happening in this day and age. Where has Aboriginal housing gone? What is the money being spent on? Nothing is hitting the ground for our people,” he said.
Megan Krakouer, Director of the National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Recovery Project, said the recent announcement by the Victorian Government that they will commit to more than 10,000 social houses “shows how a real Labor Government responds to a crisis”.
“Despite a long way to go, they have taken the first steps in this journey. Ideally, it would be best if these steps became a sprint and they provide enough housing for all the homeless, the majority of whom are children,” she said.
“When we compare Victoria’s response to Western Australia, our government remains the back water of this nation — doing next to nothing for our most vulnerable.”
A spokesperson for WA Minister for Housing Peter Tinley recently told NIT the McGowan Government’s Social Housing Economic Recovery package would see a $141.7 million package refurbish 1,500 public and community houses, a rolling maintenance program targeting 3,800 regional dwellings, and the delivery of about 250 new homes to help meet the State’s social housing needs.
The spokesperson added that in December 2019, the State Government announced the “biggest-ever State Government boost for homelessness services”, a $72 million investment forming part of WA’s first 10-year homelessness strategy.
The package included two Common Ground facilities to “help break the cycle of homelessness and give rough-sleeping Western Australians a place to call home”.
By Giovanni Torre