Plan for Tent City fence gets ditched

PLANS to fence off Spare Parts Puppet Theatre from Fremantle’s expanding “Tent City” have been abandoned.

A source confirmed to the Herald that Fremantle council had planned to erect a 1.8 metre fence around the theatre on Friday over concerns about parents cancelling bookings for its post-Covid comeback show Beanstalk.

Residents at Tent City also believe the theatre company was behind a move to cut off their water supply after the handle of a tap was removed by a plumber earlier this week. That attempt was scuppered when they purchased their own handle from Bunnings, and the Herald has heard there will be no more attempts to stop the flow.

The theatre company wouldn’t comment on the fence or tap, but late on Thursday issued a conciliatory release.

“Spare Parts Puppet Theatre has been an active members of the Fremantle community for 40 years and has resided at Pioneer Park for nearly all of that time,” the release said.

“The company has had a harmonious relationship with homeless people who have utilised the park over the years.

“Spare Parts is sympathetic to the issues of homelessness and disadvantage. However, the current situation at Pioneer Park is not a sustainable solution to a real community problem.

“We urge the relevant authorities, departments and agencies, and especially organisations equipped to deal with vulnerable people to work together toward the earliest resolution of the situation and to advance real meaningful solutions that will provide aid and comfort to some of the most vulnerable members of our community.”

Meanwhile about 20 of the camp’s leaders have signed a letter to community services minister Simone McGurk and housing minister Peter Tinley outlaying a “statement of demands” that will need to be met before they’d consider dismantling the camp.

Demand

They want “suitable accommodation” for the homeless in “vacant accommodation and land”, supported accommodation for war veterans and people leaving hospital or prison, support services to work on-site and enough public housing to deal with the 15,000 people on Homeswest’s waiting list.

One of the leaders, Johhny Windus, told the Herald campers were aware of the looming state election and wanted a more formal timeframe about how the McGowan government was going to deal with the homelessness crisis.

“We know we can’t stay in the park until [Common Ground] is built,” he said of the government’s planned homeless facilities in East Perth and Mandurah.

“Their answer is to tell us to go back to the community services which have failed us from decade to decade, from generation to generation.”

But he says the community is sick of seeing friends dying on the streets and won’t go back to the way things were.

Mr Windus said many of the volunteers who manned the soup kitchen which spawned the camp had returned to work, so residents had stepped up to prepare meals, while they’d also taken a more active role in policing the site. This had encouraged others to shift to the camp, which now has 50 tents and 100 residents.

“This is really a case of a grassroots movement of the most downtrodden people of Fremantle coming together to work their way through this,” he said.

St Pat’s Imagined Futures initiative, which brings together a range of government and community service providers to tackle homelessness and disadvantage, has urged the camps residents to attend walk-in sessions at the Queen Victoria Street community centre.

But Mr Windus said residents wanted the services to be offered at the park, saying some felt uncomfortable attending St Pat’s.

Correction: Last week’s story “Rape highlights camp risk” attributed a comment about St Pat’s limited ability to assist homeless people to a camp resident. The comment was instead taken from a social media posting. The Herald apologises to the poster and readers for the error, which was made during sub-editing.

by STEVE GRANT

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