“MATES keep asking me ‘how do you keep doing this?’ ‘How can you do it?’
“I’m pushing towards my limit, I just don’t know where it is yet. When you have a little girl you only care about sending money for her to have a good life. All the money I earn goes to Bali.”
Homeless for six months, Scott is one of many people who live on the streets of Fremantle.
He’d been happily living in Bali with his wife and young daughter Alexis but when his visa expired he had to return to Australia.
“I just didn’t have any job waiting for me when I arrived,” he told the Herald. “I had never been homeless before. I set my swag and I sleep on the beach now. If it rains you just put up with it, you know. The worst thing about being homeless isn’t the weather, it’s the fights.
“Every night there will be a bunch of young people around the public toilets and showers in the city on the look-out.
“‘He has a wallet, he has a phone, go guys, get him!’.
“The other day four teenagers bashed a friend of mine, four to one. He is in hospital now.
“You sleep with one eye open. You usually do two or three hours’ sleep cycles and are always listening. But after a week you are exhausted and then you drift, and people steal your stuff or they bash you up.
“We are a really close community. I have good mates. But I like to be on my own at night and avoid problems, always carry the house with me [he points at his big backpack] and hide my things as good as possible.”
St Patrick’s community support centre, Fremantle’s go-to place for emergency relief, has been crying out for years about the growing crisis of homelessness and poverty, even amongst people with jobs.
“I feel safer on the streets than in squatted homes or St Pat’s where it’s full of druggies and people searching for fights,” Scott says.
Steve McDermott, St Pat’s CEO, says the centre works hard to provide a “safe and supportive environment”.
“Anti-social behaviour such as stealing, taking drugs or fighting is not tolerated in our day centre or in our accommodation services,” he says, but acknowledges it’s an ongoing struggle.
“Certainly many of our clients have experienced issues including drug addiction and behavioural problems and our case workers strive to engage with these clients so that these issues can be addressed.”
Federal Labor MP Melissa Parke says it doesn’t help when funding is slashed.
“Since coming to office, the Abbott government has savaged housing and homelessness programs,” she told the Herald.
“This includes cutting $44 million in 2014/15 year from the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness and disbanding the COAG Select Council on Housing and Homelessness.”
But federal social services minister Scott Morrison says the Abbott and Barnett governments are investing $60m in funding for homelessness services to WA over the next two years.
WA minister Helen Morton: “Through NPAH and the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) in 2015-16 more than $1.9m will also be allocated to St Patrick’s to deliver accommodation and support services.
“This includes funding for the Street to Home Program which provides support for individuals sleeping rough or experiencing homelessness in inner city Perth and Fremantle. More than $4m of NAHA funding is provided to 11 organisations which provide accommodation options for families throughout the metropolitan area.”
Scott isn’t buying what the politicians are selling.
“Where is the 60 million then?” he scoffs. “Spent on ‘eyes on the street’? They do nothing. That’s a load of shit. It’s just the government making themselves look good. A couple of friends got assaulted and they did nothing. A car ran into them in a carpark while they were sleeping in their van and they did nothing. They don’t even stop fights. They just come to us and make us move around.
“It’s a waste of the taxpayers’ money. If they used what they spend on eyes on the street to fix old empty buildings in Freo they could let 10 or more of us in. People have to turn to crime to survive. There’s no safe place.
“If the government spent their money right there would be less need to clean up, no stealing, a place to sleep and less people in gaol.”
by MARTA PASCUAL JUANOLA