FREMANTLE mayoral candidate Marija Vujcic wants to turn a council building into an “engagement hub” to help homeless people transition back to housing.
The model is based on a youth service run by St Vinnie’s and Rotary in Perth and Mandurah, but Cr Vujcic says it could be adapted for the 119 rough sleepers around Fremantle.
“The first thing is to conduct a feasibility study, which I will introduce to council,” she said.
Cr Vujcic says her Fremantle Destination Engagement Hub would provide people experiencing homelessness with short-term accommodation, a shower and laundry as well as wrap-around support services.
She believes around 30 per cent of homeless people are only three months away from a job if given support.
Cr Vujcic said she hasn’t yet identified a suitable building, but believes the initiative could be funded by a mix of state and federal funding, corporate donors and money raised through a once-a-year ticketed festival.
“Because the generosity of people is there, you could raise $500,000 a year on a festival.
“I have had conversations with corporates who want to be silent, but want to help.”
Cr Vujcic said the service would provide some 7-day accommodation, but she’s also interested in following up Perth mayor Basil Zempilas’s plan to use car parks for overnight accommodation – though Perth council canned that initiative.
Cr Vujcic, a strident critic of the council’s handling of Tent City earlier this year, said one lesson that came out of it was how generously the people of Fremantle responded, and she would hope to tap into that to fund some of the peripherals of her plan.
“I have lived in the city for two years and go around with my greyhound, sometimes at 3am, and the homeless are often pretty happy but want somewhere to crash now and then and to clean up,” she said.
“They’ve also told me ‘we have no place to put our private possessions’.”
She wants to include lockers in the hub, which could be sponsored over a year by philanthropic residents.
She said the magnitude of the problem hit her while she mulled over the council’s finances – which she regularly refuses to accept when they come up for a vote – and particularly its forgiving of old parking fines.
She realised that many of the repeat offenders were probably people who had only a car for a home and no capacity to pay.
“Each and every one has an individual story and this is where I grappled with what we have in Fremantle.
“If we can forgive tenants half a million dollars when we waivered their rent, then we can do this.”
by STEVE GRANT