Service's ‘growing pains’ propel calls to create an integrated homeless support hub in Mandurah

“Growing pains” at the Peel Community Soup Kitchen have sparked debate between the organisation and local government about creating an extensive homelessness support hub in Mandurah. 

The kitchen’s restricted ability to expand services at its current Sutton Hall location has been an ongoing issue, according to the centre’s chairman and City of Mandurah East Ward councillor Shane Jones. 

Mr Jones has been a key driver of conversation around the issue and the concept of a “Community Support Hub”, that integrates multiple services in one location.

He said joint suggestions have lead to the idea of creating a “holistic” centre at the Tuart Avenue Facility, which currently provides a safe space for homeless people in the area to have a warm shower and get changed on a regular basis.

While nothing is “in concrete yet”, Mr Jones said he would like to see the relocation project underway in the next 12-18 months. 

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Peel Community Soup Kitchen provides meals to Mandurah’s vulnerable people five days an week and generally serves about 80 meals per sitting. 

“There’s a great deal of discussion going on about a ‘hub’ and putting a lot of services in together,” Mr Jones said. 

"There’s a lot of services up there that would help our clientele. [Financially] it’ll be easier for all of us to work together and [we’ll be able] to cover the whole spectrum of what out clientele need.  

“We’ll just start bringing services in as needed, where they fit. We’ll take that holistic approach. It’s just better for the clientele.”

The Tuart Avenue Facility, which currently provides a safe space for homeless people in the area to have a warm shower and get changed on a regular basis. Photo: Marta Pascual Juanola.

The Tuart Avenue Facility, which currently provides a safe space for homeless people in the area to have a warm shower and get changed on a regular basis. Photo: Marta Pascual Juanola.

The kitchen’s relocation was identified as a key issue in a report by City of Mandurah community and social development manager Tim Hartland, titled Approaches to Street Presence and Supporting Vulnerable People including Homelessness, that was presented to councillors at their September 11 meeting. 

The report outlined the state of homelessness in the coastal community and the growing strain vulnerable people placed on local businesses trading in the central business district. 

Following several discussions with the local government, relocation into a more appropriate precinct was recommended to the Peel Community Soup Kitchen. 

Mr Jones said while homelessness had increased somewhat, it was the rising numbers of local pensioners seeking support that had hit the centre’s resources.

“The growth for us isn’t in the homeless, the growth for us is in the pensioners,” he said.

“Pensioners not being able to afford their power bills, their services at home and to eat. That’s where our growth is.” 

He also said the size of the kitchen was inadequate and volunteers were forced to prepare food at seperate locations prior to meals being served. 

“It’s not a real kitchen we need a semi-industrial kitchen to service our clients,” he said. 

Helping the helpless: Soup Kitchen chairman Shane Jones, volunteer Chris Woods, coordinator Tracey Bain, volunteer Kerry Vrossink and volunteer Marie Tatlow. Photo: Carla Hildebrandt.

Helping the helpless: Soup Kitchen chairman Shane Jones, volunteer Chris Woods, coordinator Tracey Bain, volunteer Kerry Vrossink and volunteer Marie Tatlow. Photo: Carla Hildebrandt.

“Growing pain” wasn’t the only motive for the move according to the report. 

The report particularly highlighted the “noticeable street presence of vulnerable people” around central Mandurah as an issue.  

“Currently the city centre is experiencing an increase in actual and perceived anti-social behaviour predominantly relating to people who are street present, living rough and/or facing some form of homelessness,” the report stated. 

However, Mr Jones said it was a misconception that anti-social behavior in the city was isolated to the kitchen’s clientele. 

“Not too many of the problems tie back to the kitchen,” he said. 

While the report noted that the central location was accessible for many, it outlined parking restrictions for deliveries and the management of negative interactions with businesses and residents entering the precinct as issues. 

At their past meeting, councillors showed support to endorse recommendations that involve developing a business case outlining possible suitable locations, operating models and partner agencies.

To read the full report visit the City of Mandurah website or click here

Do you have an opinion to share on the issue of homelessness in Mandurah? Or on the relocation idea? Share your opinion with us via editor.mandurahmail@fairfaxmedia.com.au.

Caitlyn Rintoul on Twitter via @caitlynrintoul