Bronx a ‘powder keg’ just waiting

Ms L and her boyfriend say they were told to expect another five years in the hellish Beacy Bronx. Photo by Steve Grant.

RESIDENTS left in the ‘Beacy Bronx’ say life has become a living hell.

Aggressive looters attack abandoned buildings at all hours, rats and mice stream from those that have been demolished, rubbish is strewn across the empty blocks where weeds grow waste-high and crows peck at the empty food containers; it all adds to the incessant fighting, drug dealing and disruption that’s plagued the enclave for nearly a decade.

WA’s housing department is slowly emptying the area between South and Lefroy Streets near Bruce Lee Oval in preparation for its redevelopment, but those left behind say the aura of neglect is fuelling the problems.

Carol (not her real name) lives just off O’Reilly Close and says the department had always been patchy with maintenance, but recently the Bronx seems to have fallen completely off the radar.

“Look at that, it’s all mould,” she says of the mosaic of dark blotches eating at the paint of her carport ceiling.

She says the mould inside’s pretty awful as well, and having experienced two major illnesses while living there – including the potentially deadly encephalitis – she shudders at the thought of how it’s impacted her health.

But Carol says the endless violence, screaming and drug dealing has had the most profound effect on her family.

Her son has moved out, but was so traumatised by his experience living there he sleeps fitfully and keeps having to peer through his curtains throughout the night to feel safe.

“He can’t go into shops,” Carol says.

A few doors up, Ms L says two of her teen children couldn’t bear it any longer and have recently moved out to live with their father.

“You couldn’t even let them outside to play in the street,” she says, devastated by their absence.

Ms L says her boyfriend, who is caring for his terminally ill parents who live in a different suburb, is on 24-hour call because she’s terrified of the late-night antics in her street. Last year he got stabbed after intervening in a dispute and bled out.

Stabbed

“I was dead, literally dead,” he says.

Before the ambulance arrived to save his life, he says police turned up and their response was indicative of how people in the Bronx are treated by authorities; second-class citizens.

“So I’ve got my finger virtually up my bum trying to find the severed artery to block it and there’s a lot of blood that’s already come out, and I’ve got my other hand trying to hold my bag out of the way, and this cop comes up and says ‘put your hands up’.

“I told him, ‘mate, if I put my hands up I’m going to bleed to death in front of you’.

“I mean, if that happened to someone living in Cottesloe, would the cops be telling them to put their hands up?”

With the demolition of old Housing stock leaving several vacant lots along South Street, Ms L says people are using them as a thoroughfare and jumping her fence day and night to get in and out of the Bronx; that sets off her neighbour’s dog and means she rarely gets a good night’s sleep.

Her boyfriend says that just before the Herald arrived, they’d spoken with someone from the housing department who was checking out the boarded building across the road.

It’s scheduled to be demolished soon so Edgar Court can be pushed through to South Street, but the couple say they were told it’d be five years before they’d get their ticket out.

That means living just a few metres away from roadworks Ms L’s youngest daughter has autism and difficulty dealing with loud noise.

“We can’t do another five years of this,” Ms L says.

“This place is like a powder keg and it’s about to explode.”

Her boyfriend says he asked the Housing staffer if a skip bin could be brought in so he could clear up the junk pile that departed tenants dumped on the driveway, but was told that couldn’t happen because it was too expensive.

“I mean, I was going to do the work for them, so it would have saved them money,” he says.

“It feels like they had all that money stolen from them, but we’re being punished for it.”

Up the street another woman is putting her bins out on the verge amongst the litter blown there by the wind.

She’s caught kids climbing into her backyard a few times and says it’s a pretty rough place, but her ticket out is almost within reach.

The department has agreed to relocate her shed and the air-con unit she installed at her own cost, meaning she won’t be out of pocket when the move finally comes. But she hasn’t been given a date yet.

The Herald sent questions to the housing department, but didn’t get a response before deadline.

Some hope

HARD-UP Beaconsfield residents will get access to mobile GPs and food relief every Friday.

Through an initiative of the Imagined Futures partnership, the Freo Street Doctor and Red Cross vans will be visiting Davis Park every second Friday from 11am – 2pm. The street doctor will be available for anyone experiencing hardship who can’t access a mainstream GP. 

Imagined Futures chief executive Leigh Sinclair said at an earlier visit this month, one of the street doctors referred local resident Corey Brown straight to Fiona Stanley emergency because of an acute medical condition he didn’t even know he had; there he was told he might n ot have survived the night without treatment. 

“These are the types of cases that may have been missed were it not for this fantastic new project,” Ms Sinclair said. 

Imagined Futures is run by St Patrick’s Community Support Centre, and CEO Michael Piu said it builds on the organisation’s outreach programs such as its Covid-relief Doorstop Dinners.

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