COMMUNITY services minister Simone McGurk says she has received information that organisers of Tent City were told service organisations had made provisions to cover Boxing Day, but went ahead with their soup kitchen anyway.
Ms McGurk says that points to the camp being a “stunt” timed to put pressure on the government leading up to March’s election.
“I think it was planned for a while and my concern is that a number of people have been drawn to the camp and that’s frustrating for business,” Ms McGurk told the Herald.
“The Red Cross and St Pat’s were asked before Christmas if they were shutting down.
“Red Cross said they were not shutting down and St Pat’s said they were closing but were giving people food hampers, so there was no diminution of food or services.
Ms McGurk said she believed organisers of the camp may have previously been involved in a similar camp in Martin Place in Sydney in 2017, or had been watching and learning.
“Having said that, I know there are homeless people with needs and a lot of Freo people have donated and given their time to the camp.”
The minister urged camp residents and volunteers to stay the distance with the government’s housing solutions, and when poked on whether the response could be quicker, replied: “That is a good question and one thing I have been working on as minister for communities – what are the best approaches to getting good long-term accommodation and I think we will get some good outcomes.”
Ms McGurk said while the Opposition had mocked the small number of people the government had housed through its 20 Lives initiative, she said those who got housing included some of the most entrenched homeless people.
“Most were homeless for about seven years and 80 per cent of them are still in housing.
“That’s a good news story, but the Opposition mocks us for it.”
Ms McGurk said experience had shown that without appropriate supports, simply placing people in homes was often futile.
She also wasn’t keen to put a timeline on when her department could get all the campers off the streets, saying the number of people needing emergency accommodation changed daily making it tricky for service organisations.
by STEVE GRANT