'It's not just what you see on the street': Services shine a light on Homelessness Week

Passages Youth Engagement Hub staff Julie Greer, Jade Gillespie and Emma Roberts. Photo: Supplied.
Passages Youth Engagement Hub staff Julie Greer, Jade Gillespie and Emma Roberts. Photo: Supplied.

When we think of homelessness our minds often turn to the sight of someone shivering while sleeping on a cold street or individuals begging for money with a sign outside the shopping centre.

But the vulnerable people we see sleeping rough only touches the surface of the alarming homelessness picture, with many more experiencing housing stress, 'couch surfing', and transient living.

For Homelessness Week 2020, running from August 2-8, the Mandurah Mail is shining a light on homelessness in the Peel region and the services that support our most vulnerable residents.

On any given day, about 84 individuals are sleeping rough in the City of Mandurah.

But Peel Passages Youth Engagement Hub manager Jade Gillespie said for the 84 individuals you see on the streets in Mandurah there are many more "flying under the radar".

It's not just what you see on the street, it's a much bigger issue than that.

Peel Passages Youth Engagement Hub manager Jade Gillespie

"As a society we connect homelessness with people who are on the streets but there are a lot of different tiers of homelessness," she said.

"Primary homelessness is people who are experiencing street presence or people sleeping in their cars but then you have secondary homelessness, which is almost like a hidden type of homelessness.

"So this is someone who might couch surf at one friend's house for a few nights then stay at another place for the next few nights and this continues on.

"It's not just what you see on the street, it's a much bigger issue than that."

Tanya Swayn, Kurt and Dee Freitag and Paris Packer at the Halo Team op shop location on Gibson Street. Photo: Kaylee Meerton.

Tanya Swayn, Kurt and Dee Freitag and Paris Packer at the Halo Team op shop location on Gibson Street. Photo: Kaylee Meerton.

When asking Halo community centre coordinator Tanya Swayn what she wanted more people to know about homelessness she echoed the same view.

"The few people you see on the streets doesn't indicate the homeless they only make up a small percentage," she said.

"What you don't see is the people who are in a bush, in a tent, staying on people's couches, or in a caravan park."

What I would like people to understand is that trauma is the basis on why people are homeless.

Halo community centre coordinator Tanya Swayn

Ms Swayn also said people often become homeless due to trauma that has happened in their life or financial strain.

There is no one path to becoming homeless but often life events like a relationship breaking down, losing a job, mental or physical health problems, or substance misuse can be the trigger.

"What I would like people to understand is that trauma is the basis on why people are homeless," Ms Swayn said.

"Then you also have the financial strain of COVID-19 also causing homelessness.

"You've got good families who are blue collar workers who have lost their jobs and are unable to pay their rent suddenly."

The unprecedented amount of job losses in the Peel region has left organisations such as Halo and Peel Passages Youth Engagement Hub in high demand.

Ms Gillespie said this Homelessness Week was important to let those suffering due to COVID-19 know there is support available.

"This year because of the consequences of COVID-19 a lot of families and people not doing it so tough normally are now experiencing hardship," she said.

"So it is important for us to acknowledge that and illustrate there are a lot of services in the community that can support them."

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Peel Passages Youth Engagement Hub help to provide marginalised and at-risk youth between 12 and 26 years old with a safe and positive place to access necessary services.

The organisation has free shower, laundry and kitchen facilities, as well as access to internet and phone networks, and helps young people organise prescriptions, Smartriders and food hampers.

The team are hosting a Homelessness Week event on August 7 from 10-2 at Mandurah Baptist Church.

There will be sausage sizzles, pop up shops, hairdressers, food hampers, material resources, yarning groups, information on local support services and a free raffle. For more information contact Nick on 0478 804 710 or Jade on 0466 429 198.

The Halo team assists the community with issues including homelessness, financial struggle and domestic violence.

The organisation uses the funds received from the sale of second hand goods at its op shop to offer a range of essential services including food hampers on Fridays, giving warms meals to the homeless, and delivering food to those in need. For more information, visit the Halo Team Facebook page or the op shop at 3 Gibson Street.