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Australia Homeless support services in Perth suburb at breaking point with vulnerable people turned away

02:47  08 august  2021
02:47  08 august  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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It's a crisp five degrees outside and Prue Broughton is sleeping in her car with no heater, alongside her cat Fury and dog Rocky.

She has been doing this for the last four months since she was forced to move out of where she was living.

The 47-year-old searches every day for a place to call home, but there're just too many other people on the exact same mission.

"I just want a house and I want my dog and my cat to have a place to live, you know?" she said.

"There's so many abandoned places here in Midland, why can't we turn them into some places for accommodation?"

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Ms Broughton is one of dozens who frequent Karnany, a drop-in service for people on the streets of Midland in Perth's north-east, for a bite to eat and a hot cup of coffee as they try to thaw out from the night before on the streets.

Beanies, sleeping bags and tents fly out the door.

Drop-in centre forced to turn away 6,000 families in need

This drop-in centre is one of several in Perth's north-east run by Indigo Junction, which helps vulnerable families and young people with housing and other support, but it can't keep up with demand.

Chief executive Sharon Gough said the organisation had to turn away 6,000 families and more than 500 young people in the last year.

She said since the rental moratorium lifted in March, the number of people needing help had increased.

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"We've never seen it jump I guess quite this dramatically," she said.

"Certainly since the moratorium on evictions has been lifted, there's been a massive spike in the numbers of people making contact for support, and people that historically haven't needed a homelessness response or even connected with community services."

Ms Gough said Indigo Junction had never turned away so many people and the need for help was not slowing down.

She wanted to see more affordable housing for people to access, as well as more funding to expand their services so they could create more safe spaces for people to sleep at night.

In Midland and further north in Ellenbrook, the number of homeless people is growing, according to City of Swan Mayor Kevin Bailey.

Families and single women were among the growing group, who Mr Bailey said gravitated towards Midland because it was safe and services were accessible.

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"They don't like to go into the Perth CBD because it's not safe – they feel threatened in there," he said.

"When they have gone in there, there's been assaults and intimidation."

He said the Midland homeless community was also well connected to each other.

While Mr Bailey thought local councils were well placed to work with agencies to address homelessness in their communities, he called for more ongoing funding from state and federal governments.

He also wanted homeless people to be given a seat at the table to work out solutions.

"Some people out there are incredibly intelligent, highly skilled; that for one reason or another are on the street and we need to be able to use that to build a far better model to help try and solve the situation," he said.

Couch surfing hides real homeless figures

Youth Affairs Council of WA chief executive Sandy McKiernan said across Perth there were more young people experiencing homelessness than ever before and services were not able to accommodate everyone who needed help.

While there were more people on the streets, she said there were also lots of young people who were couch surfing or staying in overcrowded accommodation.

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"Numbers are hard to count with young people when it comes to homelessness," she said.

"They often don't see themselves as homeless even though they might be couch surfing or sharing with a mate."

She said young people aged between 12 and 25 accounted for 21 per cent of the homeless population.

This posed a challenge as young people who experienced homelessness were twice as likely to go through it again as an adult.

Ms McKiernan said homeless services were at "breaking point" because of limited funding and resources.

Back in Midland, Indigo Junction was feeling that stretch.

Each month around 50 young people were being turned away from their youth crisis accommodation, which Ms Gough said was concerning because of how vulnerable young people can be.

"Homelessness is usually the result of what's occurred for them," she said.

"Quite often it can be that there's been an experience of significant trauma in a family relationship breakdown," she said, such as mental health or domestic violence.

The state government said local councils interested in addressing homelessness could put forward ideas as part of a $6 million fund.

It said different solutions would be required in different areas and the grant scheme would help to address that.

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