No child should have to sleep on the street

SOPHIE MOLETA is a Fremantle resident,  mother and musician with an enviable back catalogue. In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED, she reflects on a chance meeting after a gig and what it says about how we treat our most vulnerable citizens.  

LAST night after playing a gig at the Yoga lab in Fremantle, I went back to my car and on the way spotted a body sleeping rough on the grass under the big tree opposite Gypsy Tapas. 

I had put in my car earlier, an old but in good condition foam mattress that we no longer need – been used for sleep overs, camping ect. 

I asked him if he wanted an easy-to-carry mattress; he had a trolley so it would have been easy enough to strap onto his trolley, and he said “yes” and I went to car and got it. 

When I bought it back, he nudged a lump next to him that I thought was his clothes and it was young child. 

They both moved onto the mattress and I walked away, with some tears welling up in eyes… 

Why are there kids sleeping rough in Fremantle? 

I’m writing this letter with intent to raise more awareness into the unjustness of the current rental market and real estates agents capitalising on the current Covid situation and rents being raised all over the place the point that they are unaffordable to a majority of people and to highlight that there are kids sleeping rough in Fremantle. 

There are also single mothers, providing for their kids, on long Homeswest wait lists for affordable and secure housing. 

Why is the government not buying up rental stock to make housing more affordable on a larger scale and providing more co-operative housing schemes.

There are a few co-ops, with long wait lists, in Fremantle and in Perth, but not enough for the current housing needs. 

We have been in White Gum Valley for the past five years in a small and safe two-bedroom flat, but my son has gotten into a good high school in north metro on an academic program so I have been trying to find us a new home close to high school so he doesn’t have to commute two hours a day for the next six years.

After looking at many rentals over the past six months in the area close to high school, basic accomodation, not renovated, many on second or above floor of apartments and very few under $400 per week, with 30+ people at home opens, no rent negotiation, and after looking into Opening Doors and Keystart loans,I was lucky to gain a place in a housing co-op near high school and we move in two weeks. 

We have potential long-term housing security looking like reality for us … it has been a very long wait.

But for a man sleeping rough in Fremantle with a child, and trolley of his belongings, with no fixed address, I wonder what his chances are and what they are for his child? 

He must be eligible for priority housing (a year-and-a-half to two-year wait for a home at this stage) but where will his child sleep in the interim? 

Affordable and secure and long-term housing should not be a luxury for a certain generation or a certain income level.

Health is where the HOME is and without security of tenure, physical and mental health issues are rife amongst one parent families and minority groups and where children don’t have a solid base these issues will continue.

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