AS hats come out, gloves go on and St Pat’s launches its winter appeal (see MBS on page 23), the Chook caught up with some of Freo’s rough sleepers to see how the cold snap is treating them.
Finding a place to call home is front of mind and there’s lots of uncertainty; Tent City was shut abruptly in February; 4 per cent of WA’s social housing has been demolished or sold off in the last three years, pushing the waiting list past 15,000; and the 150-bed facility at 100 Hampton Road doesn’t yet have anyone to run it past December.
For 28-year-old Jade finding housing is about health and family.
She fractured her neck last winter and was forced to change the cast herself.
Having to jump over fences to find places to stay didn’t help with her recovery, and she ended up hospitalised for seven months.
Part of that time was spent in Freo Hospital’s Alma Street mental health unit, where Jade says staff helped her get a house in Stirling.
She was initially able to pay rent with her Centrelink payments, but a few months down the road she fears losing the roof over her head again.
“I have the money,” Jade says, “but they won’t let me pay rent because it would leave me with only $24.”
Jade would rather have a place for her and her mum to stay. Both have been on the housing list for around six months, and have decided that whoever gets a place first will bring the other to live with them.
Jade has hopes that Noongar Mia Mia’s Moorditj Mia housing first program will be able to get them in cosier digs soon. Recently funded as part of the McGowan government’s $6.8m homeless package, Moorditj Mia will link rough sleepers with wraparound support services.
Meanwhile, Jade has to figure out how to get all of her possessions from Stirling to the Freo house where her dad, Daniel, is staying with a friend.
Daniel was also resident of Tent City and played in its ‘house’ band, but isn’t all that keen about the impending arrangement, saying it might be a bit cramped with everyone rock and rolling in close quarters.
Still he wouldn’t dream of leaving his daughter out in the cold.
For Daniel, a longtime resident of slapdash shelters, the big disappointment is that “nothing ever changes”.
Another unhoused resident, Shane McCracken, shares Daniel’s dismay. “It was easier to get a place to stay when I was younger,” he says. “Now I have more issues because I’ve given up hope.”
Mr McCracken was kicked out of his last abode at Urban Fabric after having withdrawal-related seizures he says were interpreted as aggressive behaviour.
Mr McCracken and his girlfriend Catherine have been looking for housing for six months. “We don’t want to be apart,” he says.
by CARSON BODIE