A report commissioned by the Department of Communities and authored by The University of Western Australia Centre for Social Impact has provided new insights into the state of homelessness in WA and will help inform the State Government’s 10-Year strategy on homelessness.
The report was launched by Community Services Minister Simone McGurk. The 10 Year Homelessness Strategy is a partnership between the State Government and the community services sector and a key project of the Supporting Communities Forum.
Lead researcher Professor Paul Flatau from the UWA Centre for Social Impact said while the overall rate of homelessness in Western Australia decreased between 2011 and 2016, the rate of sleeping rough was much higher in Western Australia at 4.4 per 10,000 of the population compared to the national figure of 3.5 per 10,000 people.
“This is concerning and our research indicates that many of those sleeping rough have medical conditions, experience significant mental health challenges and face legal and justice issues,” Professor Flatau said. “Studies have shown that rapid rehousing with support works and is cost-effective.
“It is critical we support those in need but also look at ways to prevent homelessness and the findings in this report will assist government and policy makers in developing effective long-term solutions to these issues.”
Key focus areas of the report include the importance of looking at the State-wide impact of homelessness and specific needs of different regions, a greater focus on key regions suffering the highest rates of homelessness such as the Kimberley and Pilbara, taking a multi-faceted approach with government, community and agencies working together and looking at the extent of homelessness, particularly in Indigenous communities.
Professor Flatau said one key issue was that there are more services available in major cities, even though 50 per cent of areas impacted were in regional communities. “It is vital we are able to provide services where they are needed most in remote areas,” he said.
“Family and domestic violence still continue to play a crucial role in homelessness, as do family dissolution, social isolation and the absence of close, fulfilling and strong relationships.
“Understanding these major factors that result in people becoming homeless is also critical in looking at preventative ways of addressing the issues.”
Michelle Mackenzie, CEO of Shelter WA said the evidence base was critical for understanding the homelessness crisis and how to respond.
“As a community, we need to understand homelessness is not inevitable. Systemic reform, coupled with coordinated and collaborative action can end homelessness,” Ms Mackenzie said.
“We know the solutions. To achieve an effective housing system we need more social and affordable housing, coupled with taxation, urban planning, income support and tenancy reform. It is also critical to have a greater focus on prevention, support services on-the-ground and listen to the voices of those who have unfortunately experienced homelessness.”
CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE FULL REPORT