A MEETING between Fremantle council, the local chamber of commerce, police, communities minister Simone McGurk and her department this week was called to deal with the city’s escalating homelessness and mental health crisis.
Traders across the CBD have been telling the Herald the daily fights, language and harassment of customers is driving them away; one tour operator said he basically had to flee when a man pretended to be part of his group then started behaving inappropriately towards a female participant.
Mayor Brad Pettitt said while the stakeholder meeting was organised some time ago, the question was raised about why Perth got $3.8 million to deal with its homelessness problem and Fremantle got nothing.
“They said they are about to announce a new outreach program across the metropolitan area and we urged that Fremantle be a big focus of that,” Dr Pettitt said.
“The meeting was arranged over the frustration from the city and police that we are dealing with lower level mental health and anti-social issues which take up an enormous amount of resources, when they need a response from mental health agencies and the Department of Communities.”
Dr Pettitt said police reiterated a long-held ambition for a sobering up shelter to be built nearby, saying they were locking up the same people over and over again without the underlying issues being addressed.
He didn’t answer if communities responded positively to the suggestion, but said it had been a “positive meeting”.
The council has also started trialing some measures which Dr Pettitt said was aimed at disturbing the patterns of anti-social behaviour.
The council has temporarily removed seating in the High Street mall and Queens Square, and is looking at trying to get a ban on alcohol providers from opening before 11am.
“That will be annoying for some, but most people can manage those three hours without having to buy alcohol,” Dr Pettitt said.
Chamber CEO Danicia Quinlan told the Herald it was a complex issue, so it was pleasing to see the stakeholders trying to work together.
“Our businesses are at the front line of managing anti-social behaviour in Fremantle and we are keen to ensure their voice is heard,” Ms Quinlan said.
“Knowing who to call, what help can be provided and how to address a person under the influence, or in a traumatised mental health state is crucial for our business’ staff and their teams.
“We are actively trying to find solutions, alongside other stakeholders, through our work
with the leadership group of Imagined Futures, roundtables like the one initiated by the city and other forums.
“We understand the complexity of the issue and policing isn’t the only answer.
“We need greater resources, service capacity and revised charters for our community service providers to act with compassion and strength to ensure we can work together to improve the atmosphere around Fremantle – both during the day, and late into the evening.”
by STEVE GRANT