Virus-driven homeless efforts help 7000

WA has unveiled details of the first Common Ground facility to house rough sleepers in Perth.
WA has unveiled details of the first Common Ground facility to house rough sleepers in Perth.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced Australian governments to help those sleeping on the streets more urgently, showing the problem can be solved, advocates for homeless people say.

Australian Alliance to End Homelessness chief executive David Pearson says about 7000 rough sleepers or people who were in dire risk of losing their accommodation had been temporarily sheltered around the nation in recent months.

About 8200 people were categorised as homeless at the last census, so it was a huge step, he said.

"It shows that if we move and take action quickly, we can solve the problem," Mr Pearson told AAP on Wednesday.

"It's hard to be socially distant when people have no place to live."

Among the most positive programs were Common Ground housing complexes, which offer tailored support services, and more dignity and safety than overcrowded, dorm-style accommodation, he said.

Western Australia's maiden 10-year homelessness plan was announced late last year and the state government unveiled details of the first Common Ground facility, which is part of its central Housing First strategy, on Wednesday.

The complex will include at least 70 self-contained apartments, communal areas and office spaces, and be built across from Wellington Square in East Perth, where many rough sleepers camp, next to the Royal Perth Hospital precinct.

"All the evidence tells us that combining safe and stable accommodation with support services is the key to breaking the cycle of homelessness," Community Services Minister Simone McGurk said.

"Common Ground facilities in other Australian cities have successfully supported people who were homeless into permanent housing, in some cases for the first time ever."

Construction is expected to start in 2021-22 while a final decision on where to build a second Common Ground complex will be announced later this year.

Mr Pearson said more could always be done but Housing First was nation-leading.

Australian Associated Press