Our Pulse Session held on Wednesday, 7 April profiled the great work being done across regional WA. Several Zoom participants gave an update from across the regional areas of Bunbury, Geraldton, Mandurah, Rockingham and Margaret River.
We also heard an update on the No Wrong Door initiative as part of the Department of Communities 10-Year Strategy on Homelessness 2020–2030.
In giving their update each participant described how Connections Week was carried out and what the high-level findings were.
Ainsley Jones, the Zero Project Worker with Ruah Community Services (Ruah) presented the findings from the Rockingham Connections Week.
Rockingham did their survey on one morning from 4:00am – 6:00am however, the key success of Rockingham’s Connection Week was the collaboration across local services to ensure individual’s experiencing homelessness were undertaking the VI-SPDAT surveys throughout Connections Week.
The results of the Rockingham Connections Week can be viewed in the report here.
Mandurah took many key learnings from Rockingham including:
- The need for local services to collaborate and to conduct the VI-SPDAT surveys within services across the entire week.
- The need to conduct more than one morning to complete the surveys with people experiencing homelessness who were not engaging with services during the day.
- To start earlier because during the summer months people were already up and moving by the time we got out and did the count in Rockingham.
The Mandurah data was collected over a period of three mornings, with 61 people identified as experiencing homelessness. The count was conducted from 2:30am – 6:00am. Nick described the age differences they discovered. “The oldest person that we interviewed was 65 and the youngest person that was experiencing homelessness in a family was four-months-old,” he said. “42 per cent of the individuals were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.”
Jade said there was significance in how many responses (74 per cent) fell into high acuity need. “It will support us to get everybody in the sector of Mandurah onboard … because it illustrated what the issues people are facing actually are,” she said.
A data summary can be viewed here.
Fleur Harding from Ruah presented the findings from their Connections Week. It was held in November 2020 and it was a first for the coastal city.
During the week 39 volunteers conducted the survey in collaboration with nine different agencies led by Ruah who put the Connections Week together.
“The majority of people in Geraldton were living temporarily with family and friends at fifty-one per cent and one of the major statistics was that 69 per cent of people surveyed identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander,” Fleur said.
“We found that over 60 per cent of people have mental health issues.”
Since the survey was conducted Ruah has added 69 people to the By-Name List from the area. One challenge, like in Rockingham, was surveying people before they started to get up and move along in the very early hours. A success was the coming together of so many community organisations which has continued with a working group being established since the count.
Louise Chambers from Ruah spoke about Bunbury’s Connection Week.
Bunbury was one of the last to hold their count from 5-8 March 2021. Milligan Community Centre ran the event with great collaboration with many volunteers from other organisations coming together. Twelve surveys were completed, and they were done early morning.
“In Bunbury they were all individual surveys, they didn’t have any family,” Louise said. We had three females and nine males ranging between 25 to 55. The average time that someone has first slept rough on the streets was 34 in Bunbury.
“We completed twelve surveys which probably sounds quite low compared to the other regions … but having spoken to many of the services in Bunbury I think the rough estimation of rough sleepers has always been around the thirty mark.”
Challenges arose in the early morning from 4:00am – 7:00am where people were counted but the individuals refused to fill out the surveys and none were done in this period. There was also an underrepresentation of Youth and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cohorts.
“We had nobody identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander which I find very hard to believe … it comes down to various different things which people continue to look into and liaise with services that do engage with those cohorts to work on how we can make sure they are better represented.”
- Margaret River
Just Home Margaret River has been conducting a “count” despite not having any Zero Project funding.
As Katie Gray, the Program Facilitator for Just Home explained they have scrapped together support from Lotterywest and private funding through the consumer-led organisation.
“There is a lot of trust within the organisation and engagement. We are linked in through our soup kitchen, and this is not a one-off survey for us,” said Katie.
With the low rental vacancy rates in the area and the impending moratorium ending, Just Home were keen to understand the extent of the issue within the region through a survey. 82 people filled out a survey and a report has been distributed. Read it here.
Of those who completed the housing and homelessness survey, 74 respondents and their household members are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness due to an insecure accommodation situation.
51 respondents feel insecure or very insecure in their housing situation, and 15 respondents feel unsafe or very unsafe in their housing situation. Furthermore, only 23 respondents (28 per cent) are confident that they will have housing in the winter months.
“At the last census we know that 30 per cent of houses in Margaret River sit empty, they are holiday houses,” said Katie. “This is a slap in the face for people who are looking for houses and also with COVID-19 tourism it has severely impacted … as soon as the borders closed people are not going overseas.”
No Wrong Door Development Work
Julia Prior is the Manager, Homelessness in the Department of Communities. Ms Prior was involved in the development of Western Australia's 10-Year Strategy on Homelessness 2020–2030 and is now leading development of the Online Homelessness Services Portal which is one of the initiatives under the strategy.
The Online Homelessness Services Portal is a strategic initiative focused on strengthening and coordinating responses and impact in addressing homelessness. The Portal will provide core infrastructure for the sector to implement a No Wrong Door approach to service delivery.
The primary purpose of the Portal is to support people experiencing homelessness to identify and engage with service providers, and to securely manage their personal stories and information. The Portal will also enable service providers across the system to introduce or strengthen aspects of the No Wrong Door approach to service delivery. It is anticipated that different groups will have different levels of access to Portal functionality.
The Portal will include services located throughout Western Australia, including the regions. It is intended to complement and strengthen the existing telephone referral service, rather than replace it.
A Portal Reference Group will be established as part of the development process to represent the views and needs of Portal users – people experiencing homelessness and the service providers and other support agencies working with them. The Portal Reference Group will inform aspects of the Portal’s technical development and implementation to strengthen the relevance and effectiveness of the Portal. Representatives will include services providers, service users, peak bodies and state and local government agencies.
Invitations for nominations for the Reference Group will begin shortly.