Hungry weekends

A HOMELESS Fremantle man fears the weekend closure of St Patrick’s Community Support Centre will see his street comrades falling foul of the law more often, as well as getting  hungry.

St Pat’s announced last week it was going to close its day centre on weekends from October 1 because of scarce funding, with CEO Steve McDermott describing it as a difficult but inevitable decision.

Danny Dickerson has been homeless for the last two years, and while he’s hopeful of getting emergency accommodation through St Pat’s sometime this year, he says the weekend closure will hurt hard.

“I come here for a hot shower on the weekends, and I rely on it for brekkie and lunch,” Mr Dickerson told the Herald.

While he owns a car that can help him get to other services on offer north of the river if he can raise cash for petrol, he worries about how others on the street without transport will cope.

“As life goes the impact will affect people but they will find their own way,” he says.

“If they can’t come here they will go to Coles for a feed and might get caught.”

Mr Dickerson says homeless people cop more than their fair share of move-on notices from police, particularly during the busier weekends when there’s more on the beat, but without St Pat’s to offer some respite and a place to stash their belongings he says they face being pushed from place to place and will eventually lash out.

• Danny Dickerson contemplates where he’ll get his weekend shower and food now St Patrick’s Community Day Centre is reducing its hours. Photo by Steve Grant

Angry and displaced

“They are going to be angry and displaced, so there’s going to be more trouble on the street,” he warns.

Mr Dickerson’s had his own brush with the law recently and this week faced court. He says he was out celebrating with a friend after manning a NAIDOC booth and giving a reconciliation talk at St Pat’s when he got a bit boisterous outside the National Hotel and was told by police to move on. He says uncharacteristically he gave them a bit of lip because he was in a jolly mood and alleges he found himself being roughed up and chucked in the back of a paddy wagon.

An officer alleged he kicked out and now he faces a mandatory gaol term for assaulting him, though he plans to plead not guilty. When you’re homeless, there’s nowhere to party privately.

Mr Dickerson says there’s already been some backlash against St Pat’s from some clients, who say it’s overly bureaucratic and spending money upgrading a lift while they’re going hungry, but mostly the crew is trying to work out what to do.

“We have had the streeties discuss having their own put of food, but you have to have a licence and there’s safety considerations; it’s not that simple.

“It’s quite hard to get a job let alone start an organisation like that.”

Mr McDermott says St Pat’s was subsidising the weekend service and couldn’t continue to do so because of rising costs.

“Whilst the contribution made by volunteers is invaluable to our capacity to provide this service, the reality is we are still faced by increasing costs, including the need to provide additional security measures.

“Our focus will continue to be on making sure we are providing high quality and integrated services and programs during the week that assist people to live full and independent lives as well as continue to address the long-term impact of homelessness as well as the root causes.”

Mr Dickerson says some of the people using the centre on the weekend aren’t actually homeless, but they are marginalised and poor and the companionship they find is important to their wellbeing.

by STEVE GRANT

2 responses to “Hungry weekends

  1. The closure of the day centre on weekends is a dissapointing decision not only for people needing these support services in fremantle ( when most others are closed ) but also for an organisation that seems to be drifting from its mission. St Pats was set up to assist homeless people in fremantle and since that time has diversified into many other areas outside of thia core service. I wonder whether this expansion has compromised the capacity of St Pats to truly meet the needs of those for whom it was set up ? Is this a time for the organisation to look outward for more funding or , does this decision warrant some internal reflection ?

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