Peel's only homelessness support worker calls for resources

The Peel region's only government-funded homelessness support worker has called for more resources to assist the vulnerable in our community.

This comes after Mandurah mayor Rhys Williams urged the state government last month to provide local housing options for the homeless.

WestAus Crisis offers emergency accommodation, advice and services to Peel residents.

In the last 12 months, 143 local residents have contacted WestAus Crisis for housing support, according to data provided by the organisation.

Anyone on the waitlist, depending on what their status is, could wait anywhere from a year to seven years.

WestAus Crisis and Welfare Services worker Jackie Kernachan

Out of these individuals, 86 were families.

WestAus Crisis and Welfare Services worker Jackie Kernachan assists individuals and families with securing long-term housing.

She said WestAus crisis was one of the only services in the Peel region that offered transitional accommodation, housing clients from three months to a year, in seven houses.

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Ms Kernachan said vulnerable residents were put on a waitlist, including general and priority, after applying for long-term government housing.

"Anyone on the waitlist, depending on what their status is, could wait anywhere from a year to seven years," she said.

"In the meantime they need to be living somewhere."

Ms Kernachan said even the priority waitlist was also subject to lengthy wait times.

"If you have a lady with five children that needs a four-bedroom house, that could still be a year-and-a-half, because they don't have the houses available," she said.

"It's all about availability.

"While they wait, they must look for other options or commit to a private rental, which means they would be taken off the priority list."

Ms Kernachan said clients could be considered for priority housing if they had health issues, mental health issues or a disability.

"Sometimes homelessness can be deemed a priority, but not everyone that is homeless is eligible," she said.

When we went to the launch, the minister said what they were going to do and nothing was to do with Mandurah.

WestAus Crisis and Welfare Services worker Jackie Kernachan

"Financial issues are not considered.

"If you have other outlets you can explore, they will give you a bond loan, so you can go into the private rental market."

Ms Kernachan said it was particularly difficult for people who had been blacklisted by a real estate agency to find a home.

"For those people, getting another private rental through real estate is probably not going to happen unless you can show them that things have changed significantly for you," she said.

Ms Kernachan said the main issues her clients faced were financial pressure and having unrealistic expectations.

"I quite often have had to say to people, 'you may be living in the car but that doesn't mean you're a bad parent'," she said.

"You can still be a really good parent and living in a car, by getting them showered and making sure they're safe and unharmed.

"It may be safer there then elsewhere."

Ms Kernachan said she had to re-educate parents who paid for food before they paid rent.

"You can't starve in Mandurah," shes said,

"There are lots of food agencies. You can't sacrifice rent for food."

'If we had more resources, we could help more people.'

Ms Kernachan said more Peel families could be assisted if there was additional funding available to the homeless sector.

"We're only funded for one worker for homelessness, which is me," she said.

"That's it for the Peel region.

"My position is funded by the state and federal government.

"If we had more resources we could help more people."

Ms Kernachan also said the the whole community, not just homeless people, would benefit if the Department of Housing provided more houses.

Ms Kernachan said the state government's 10-Year Strategy on Homelessness, to be announced later this year, would not assist Mandurah.

"When we went to the launch, the minister (Simone McGurk) said what they were going to do and nothing was to do with Mandurah," she said.

"Unless I've heard it wrong, but I didn't hear anything different with Mandurah."

Ms Kernachan said the Peel region was initially left out of the consultation period.

"The nearest consultations were in Bunbury and Cockburn," she said.

"The perception is that Mandurah is at the end of the train line and another suburb - but it's not, we're regional.

"We met Simone McGurk through (Mandurah MP) David Templeman and set up a consultation with some of our clients in Mandurah.

"We're in the loop now, very much so."

Department of Communities assistant director Helen Nys said the Strategy would address the needs of homeless people, or those at risk of homelessness.

"The Strategy sets the direction for a 'housing first' approach to addressing homelessness, supported by more flexible services to meet individual needs and the development of innovative, long-term housing options," she said.

"This approach will be underpinned by improved coordination and information sharing to improve visibility and accessibility of services and housing options.

"Improved commissioning to drive outcomes will be designed with the sector and introduced across the 10 years.

"While this is a state-wide strategy, it will enable and support place-based and local planning to better respond to local needs, including in the Peel region.

"It will not be a region-by-region 'shopping list' for infrastructure or services."