AS Fremantle enters the recovery phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, a “second wave” of homeless people has traders and Fremantle council nervous.
The state department of communities closed the last of its Covid-specific emergency shelters last month, just as a group of people Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt described as “edgier” moved into the city for the first time.
“With the older groups, our guys know who they are and how to deal with them, but this new group they really don’t know much about them yet,” Dr Pettitt said.
Concerned the city needs to present a safer face in order to attract families back, the council has joined the local chamber of commerce to pressure the state government for more police in Fremantle.
They recently met local MLA Simone McGurk, who’s also the WA minister for communities and local police superintendent Kate Taylor, to discuss a new approach.
Dr Pettitt told the Herald that while extra police on the beat was an important part of the approach, they were also pushing for more community and housing services to ensure people were helped into accommodation rather than just pushed elsewhere.
“We are not going to get on top of the homelessness issue unless there’s better resourcing of community and housing services,” he said.
“We pride ourselves on being a tolerant and supportive community but we are also a community that should not be afraid of calling out anti-social and inappropriate behaviour to make our city safe.”
Chamber CEO Danicia Quinlan said traders particularly wanted to see police out earlier; many are arriving at work to find homeless people or their possessions in their doorways.
“There is a clear and direct connection between our police and community safety officers being visible and a decrease in petty crime and anti-social behaviour,” Ms Quinlan said.
A Department of Communities spokesperson said emergency accommodation at Woodman Point had been wound down because the state’s social distancing restrictions were being eased and it was time to move back to trying to provide long-term housing solutions for homeless people.
“There is currently no evidence of community spread of Covid-19 in WA, and access to homelessness services and support continues to be available to rough sleepers throughout the metropolitan area.”
The spokesperson said 47 people used Woodman Point, with 11 remaining to the end who were found permanent housing.
Ms McGurk said the government was committed locally to the 20 Lives, 20 Homes Freo project which taps into the private rental market to provide subsidised housing for homeless people.
“Once housed, participants are connected to intensive outreach assistance through St Patricks Community Support Centre and Rual Community Services, to further help residents gain long-term structure and stability,” Ms McGurk said.
“So far, the program has engaged 18 people and 14 have been supported into accommodation.”
“If someone owns a rental property in the Fremantle area that is currently vacant, we want to hear from them – particularly if they are interested in leasing the property to a community housing provider.
“They would be guaranteed at least 12 months in rent from government and help get a homeless person off the street and into accommodation, with the support they need to stay in housing and turn their lives around.”
To get in contact with 20 Lives, 20 Homes Freo contact Kylie at Foundation Housing on kylief@foundationhousing. org.au, 9422 0733 or foundationhousing.org.au
by STEVE GRANT