ST PAT’S is getting political.
The Freo-based support centre for homeless and disadvantaged people has taken the unusual step of joining the “Raise the Rate” campaign to lobby the Turnbull government to lift dole payments.
Marking Anti-Poverty Week, St Pat’s CEO Michael Piu says the Newstart allowance is just $39 a day, making it hard for unemployed people to keep their head above water.
“Many of us may not be familiar with the rental market, but it’s difficult to get a room in a shared house for less than $150 per week, so that leaves you with just over $100 for electricity, water, clothing, transport, food and any other costs,” Mr Piu said.
About 200 people visit St Pat’s each day, augmenting their dole payments with meals, fresh fruit and veggies, free health and dental care.
“Every day we see vulnerable Australians who are living day-to-day on the very barest of resources,” Mr Piu said.
“It is time for the government to rethink how we want our most vulnerable people to live.”
Kim Imray is currently renting a room through St Pat’s crisis accommodation service after spending nine months on the streets and says after paying off his bills and food, he’s lucky to have $10 left to himself each week.
“My travel costs because I’ve got no license is about $50 on trains and buses because you have to go to appointments and to get to Centrelink,” Mr Imray said.
St Pat’s communication co-ordinator Varnya Bromilow chips in that travelling to health appointments is a “massive” impost on the centre’s clients.
“Particularly with the closing of Fremantle Hospital,” she says.
Mr Imray says another problem is running out of phone credit, as he relies on his internet coverage to communicate with support services and to try and save money on his travel.
“It’s a catch-22,” he says.
Despite his less-than-ideal personal situation, when asked about how a raise could improve his lot, Mr Imray thinks first of how it could be spent to improve the lives on people on the street, such as boosting social services.
He’d also like to see government or council-sponsored lockers for homeless people’s possessions, saying another impost is the regular theft of mobile phones and phone cards.
by STEVE GRANT