MORE than 60 per cent of homeless people in Fremantle say they’ve been the target of violent behaviour, according to a survey by an outreach support worker.
Heather Thompson, who has worked at Saint Patrick’s Community Centre for more than eight years, said many of Freo’s homeless are “feeling unsafe…very unsafe” and the violence directed at them is getting worse.
Ms Thompson surveyed 47 homeless people in Freo over two nights and asked them whether they had recently been the targets of violence, excluding domestic incidents.
While 30 said they had been targeted, Ms Thompson warned the figure could be even higher.
“Not everyone who has been beaten up will admit to people they’ve been beaten up,” Ms Thompson said.
She said men often feel embarrassed about admitting they have been attacked, while others will not want to become targets themselves by appearing vulnerable.
She said a growing homeless population and more people on the streets being psychologically unwell and affected by drugs can explain the steady rise in violence over the years.
One of the outreach support worker’s key roles is to reach out to Freo’s homeless and help them with whatever they require.
She has tended to many serious cuts and bruises over the years and has heard about shocking violence directed towards the area’s most vulnerable.
She recalls how a homeless woman in a wheelchair had eggs and bricks thrown at her by a bunch of drunken revellers exiting the city’s party strip.
But due to being treated as “second-class citizens a lot” and caught up in lives that “further marginalise” them on the street, many do not report such incidents.
St Pat’s CEO Michael Piu said it was important to note that Freo’s homeless people were often the victims of violence and, as a result, were just as concerned about street violence as the broader community.
“Sometimes there’s a perception on the street that the homeless are the perpetrators of violence,” he said.
“Our research shows this is generally not the case.
“Our clients are extraordinarily vulnerable and fearful for their safety – it is very stressful living on the streets, having to be on alert for much of the night.
“They worry for their own personal safety, as well as the safety of their belongings.”
His comments follow the bashing of a homeless 61-year-old man who was sleeping in Point Street in the dodgy east end of Fremantle earlier this month. Ms Thompson believes the elderly man is still in hospital and hasn’t returned to Freo’s streets.
Police are still searching for the offender who carried out the callous crime in the early hours of June 3.
He is described as being between 30-34 years of age, with a medium build, fair complexion and dark hair.
If you have any information relating to the offence, please call Crime Stopper on 1800 333 000.
St Pat’s launched its all-important winter appeal last night.
by WADE ZAGLAS