THE Department of Communities has forked out $3.8 million for folks in Tent City in Perth’s CBD, but not the rough sleepers on their Freo doorstep who are facing the toughest time of year.
Advocates working in the homeless sector describe the Christmas period as “suicide season” because of the spate in deaths-to-suicide which occur amongst the homeless population.
“A lot of it is to do with the lack of services,” homeless advocate Jonathon Shapiera, a former project manager who lived in his car with his son for three years, said.
“Everything shuts down and you shut down inside.
“You just don’t know what to do; you’re sick and tired of the crap that’s going on — the begging and the asking,” he said.
According to Mr Shapiera, a big factor is the difficulty experienced by homeless people wanting to access to hygiene facilities during the Christmas period, as support centres close and place limits on the services they provide.
“What people don’t understand is that homelessness is 24/7 – it doesn’t stop on Boxing Day.”
Saint Patricks Community Support Centre is open and offering breakfast, lunch and showers up to Christmas Day but closes for Boxing Day until they re-open again on December 29.
Mr Shapiera said living in the suburbs is even harder because the services offering showering facilities close down for longer periods than in hotspots like Fremantle, Rockingham and Perth.
“You’re gonna stink,” he said.
“And you don’t feel good enough to communicate and engage with others”.
Mr Shapiera said because of this, people won’t go to the grocery shops, or access services that are open and available to them.
“I know of a lot of people who absolutely go without through Christmas because they do not want to engage under these circumstances”.
According to Mr Shapiera, the uncertainty caused by people not knowing which services are open, means women who are experiencing or are at risk of experiencing domestic violence don’t know where they can go for support.
“Over Christmas, the women don’t know if the services are open… they go and sleep in the car, the car parks, they lock the doors and windows,” he said.
“This weekend is the start of the domestic violence season, and what the women need to know is that services are open all through Christmas – they don’t need to go and hide.”
The McGowan government recently opened two new refuges in Peel and Kwinana, and announced additional funding which would double the capacity of those two refuges.
Shadow homelessness minister Tony Krsticevic said Labor’s announced for Tent City was “measly,” given WA’s $2b budget surplus.
“Labor should be embarrassed by their token commitment of $3.8m for the homeless,” Mr Krsticevic said.
Mr Shapiera said, “they’re all promoting ‘housing first’ but they don’t have houses to do it”.
by KELLY WARDEN