With homelessness on the rise in WA, experts are calling for local government to change tack in how they assist those most in need.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census of Housing and Population 42.8 people out of every 10 000 experience homelessness in Western Australia.
The number of people considered to be ‘living rough’ in WA has risen by 1.1% since 2006, a statistic which suggests that homelessness is not an issue at the forefront of our elected leaders’ minds.
The Federal Government has provided $6.2 billion in financial assistance to low-income earners through the National Affordable Housing Agreement, which indicates that money may not be the solution to homelessness in Australia.
This is supported by a poll produced by the ABS which found that the number one reason people sought help from specialist homeless services in WA was ‘domestic and family violence’.
This has led those who work to improve the lives of people experiencing homelessness, such as Karen Valenti of Shelter WA, to conclude that a new approach may be needed in solving this complex issue.
“Of course financial assistance helps to some extent, but education and public awareness are just as important and I don’t think there is enough of that,” she said.
Many people experiencing homelessness feel that their government has forgotten them, or worse still, they simply do not care.
“The government doesn’t care about me, hell no, as long as they can keep their power,” says Phoenix, a busker living on the streets of Northbridge.
Other such as Paige, a woman who makes a living by quickly solving Rubik’s Cubes for the entertainment of passers-by, is unsure where to go to find government assistance.
“It’s hard to find information about government housing and assistance, it doesn’t exist,” she says.
Those closest to the crisis believe changes need to happen, both inside government and within the community, if we are going to be able to view homelessness as a historical event and not a reality for thousands of Australians.