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Government WA, Property Real Estate

New data reveals surging demand for homelessness services in WA

Shelter WA 3 mins read

New analysis by Shelter WA reveals demand for homelessness services soaring as the housing crisis impacts people across the state.

The analysis of newly released Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data finds 5,100 people every day are being helped by specialist homelessness services in WA.

The figure has increased by 1,100, or 27.5%, in the five years since the 2017-18 financial year.

The study also found, in the 2022-23 financial year:

  • ●  1,100 people reported sleeping rough in the month before seeking help, almost doubling from 553 five years ago

  • ●  Every day 75 requests for help could not be met, up 32% from 57 five years ago.

Year

2017-18

2021-22

2022-23

Number of clients being assisted per day

4,000

4,700

5,100

Number of those clients who report having slept rough in the past month

553

810

1,100

Number of requests for assistance unable to be met per day

57

74

75

The Cook government’s $24.4m Rent Relief Program and $47.6 million funding for 15 homelessness services were important initiatives and very welcomed by the sector.

But to build on the momentum and significant investment into homelessness and social housing by the Cook government we need to ensure our services can meet demand. To meet demand all services urgently need an average funding boost of 25 per cent.

“Homelessness services from Bunbury to Broome and beyond are struggling to cope with surging demand,” said Shelter WA CEO Kath Snell.

“Right now we have a perfect storm of soaring rents, rock bottom vacancy rates and a cost-of-living crisis which is plunging more and more people into distress.

“People who have never asked for help in their lives are experiencing homelessness for the first time.

“Without a significant funding boost that actually meets demand, services will have to continue turning desperate people away, including women and children fleeing domestic violence.”

Shelter WA is also calling on the government to fund interim, rapid accommodation solutions while we wait for more social housing to be built.

These include the conversion of vacant or underutilised properties, prefabricated or tiny homes on vacant government land and granny flats for social housing tenants to accommodate extended family.

“The recent changes to regulations making the building of granny flats easier have been welcomed, and help support this advocacy ask,” said Ms Snell.

“If we simply wait for long-term social and affordable housing to be built, we fear the number of Western Australians falling into rough sleeping and housing insecurity will continue to rise.

“We must address this crisis with long-term and short-term solutions, including deploying rapid accommodation to get people out of precarious housing and into safe homes.

“We recognise all that this government has already done, but the government’s bold target to end rough sleeping by 2025 also requires more investment into these solutions.”

Michael Chester, co-CEO of Uniting WA which runs the Tranby Engagement Hub in Perth, said: “We have seen an overwhelming increase in demand.

“The Tranby Engagement Hub had a 61% increase in demand between 2022 and 2023. And two weeks ago, we recorded our highest number ever of daily presentations, with 440 requests for assistance, compared with 80 per day in 2009. Our new normal is about 250-300 requests for assistance per day currently.

“We acknowledge the significant investments being made under the Cook government into social housing and homelessness services, but the funding has to reflect demand. We’d love to see a Budget this year that recognises the reality on the ground and helps us end homelessness together.”

Merri Best, CEO of housing service provider Goldfields Indigenous Housing Organisation, said: “We are seeing a significant increase in the number of visitors and also the complexity of their needs.

“With high rents and almost zero available properties in our region, we are assisting a new cohort of people who have never asked us for help before.

“Every day families and individuals are turned away because services are stretched to the limit. We desperately need at least two more 24/7 crisis centres and more accommodation options.”

Angie Mitchell, Team Leader Housing Support at Pilbara Community Legal Service, said: “The rental market in our region is extremely competitive and median rent is $1,100 a week - so people in financial difficulty have no hope of securing private housing.

“We urgently need more temporary and emergency accommodation, particularly for single men who are last on the social housing waitlist.”

Shelter WA is calling for:

  • ●  An average 25 per cent funding boost to homelessness services, worth approximately $56.25 million a year, so they can meet demand

  • ●  A one-off payment of approximately $30.75 million to homelessness services to address indexation shortfalls over the past 10 years

  • ●  Significant additional investment into rapid accommodation solutions to end rough sleeping in WA.

Read more about these pre-budget asks here.

Media contact: 

Charlie Moore - 0452 606 171

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