Support services remain committed despite stalled proposal to help city's vulnerable bridge the gap

Rough relief: Mandurah's West Aus Crisis and The St Vincent de Paul Society have been working on a fresh approach to helping people bridge the gap from homelessness to a stable home. Photo: File image.
Rough relief: Mandurah's West Aus Crisis and The St Vincent de Paul Society have been working on a fresh approach to helping people bridge the gap from homelessness to a stable home. Photo: File image.

The brains behind a proposal to provide Mandurah's most-vulnerable people with a safe space to transition into a job or education remain committed to their vision, despite being stalled by a lack of funding.

For nearly two years, Mandurah's West Aus Crisis and The St Vincent de Paul Society have been working on a fresh approach to helping people bridge the gap from homelessness and unemployment to living in a stable home with a steady income.

The agencies have conceived a plan to create long-term transitional housing for the Peel region.

Their plan would involve building a complex of units in central Mandurah that were a stone-throw away from public transport, education options and employment services.

Traditionally, transitional housing is only short term and once the tenant earns a certain amount they are cast out of their residence. Photo: File image.

Traditionally, transitional housing is only short term and once the tenant earns a certain amount they are cast out of their residence. Photo: File image.

St Vincent de Paul and West Aus Crisis have held a memorandum of understanding with each other for more than five years and have a partnership in several community houses in Mandurah.

St Vincent de Paul own the houses and West Aus Crisis assigns tenants to them.

West Aus Crisis chief executive officer Lynn Rodgers said the proposed transitional housing would follow that same principle, however, would cater for different needs.

Ms Rodgers said the city's most vulnerable people often go back and forward between crisis accommodation and transitional housing.

She said once people "got on their feet" they were no longer eligible for the affordable housing and would be knocked down again.

"It would be a longer-term accommodation option. If they did get a job, we wouldn't immediately ask them to leave if they were earning slightly too much. [We would wait] until they were on their feet and got stable housing somewhere else," Ms Rodgers said.

"We've got high unemployment, which of course causes people to fall into homelessness.

"We've got a lot of financial stress in the Peel region. I don't think that's new to anybody. We're hoping this model would set them up for life."

Traditionally, transitional housing is only short term and once the tenant earns a certain amount they are cast out of their residence and forced to find their own place.

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St Vincent de Paul special community services executive manager Sandy McKiernan said being evicted from affordable accommodation after attaining a job made it tough to keep that position.

"One of the biggest challenges is that you have to move from house to house. If you get established in training or a work program it just adds a level of complexity and makes it much harder," she said.

"This initiative was about providing a slightly longer-term accommodation solution for people but certainly was still supposed to be a transitional approach but maybe over three to five years rather than from 12 to 18 months."

Ms Rodgers said the plan was to hire someone in a "navigator" role, who would check in to see how people were going and be a point of contact for residents.

"We find that people in the houses actually need individual support, that wrap-around support service," Ms Rodgers said.

Ms McKiernan said the region was selected for its combination of high unemployment and vulnerable housing needs.

"There is currently no service model like this in the Peel region," she said.

"We thought it would offer a more holistic solution to a certain group of families or individuals who are looking to have a bit more security around their housing while they pursue education and training.

"If you're a young person who has become homeless leaving school is something that automatically happens so getting secure housing so that you can reengage in the education system is a core component of models like this.

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"It would be working with clients that were getting ready and had the motivation to be going down that track. Then working more closely with them to make those goals and plans are a reality.

"I think it's a great opportunity for Peel to support people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

"Certainly, in an area where we know we've got a higher unemployment level than any other part of the outer metro.

"Definitely, the pitch we had was about trying to address all of those things."

Both agencies put a submission into the Department of Communities for the plan, however, were knocked back.

Ms Rodgers said WA Local Government minister and Mandurah MP David Templeman had endorsed the concept and had written a letter of support to the department prior to their submission.

"I wrote to David Templeman to see if he liked the project and if he could support it, which he did," Ms Rodgers said.

Ms McKiernan said St Vincent de Paul we're more than "happy to continue to support the project should funding come available".

"It's a funding challenge. There's definitely a lot of support from the department and local members," she said.

The Department of Communities has been contacted for comment.

Follow Caitlyn Rintoul on Twitter via @caitlynrintoul.