Hopes sub­sidy will ease home­less­ness

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News | Times - War­ren Hately

Ac­tivists have had a small vic­tory in wring­ing an an­nual $20,000 sub­sidy from ratepay­ers for the next three years to part-fund a lo­cal hous­ing ad­vo­cacy of­fi­cer.

The win comes with a fi­nal ac­cep­tance the Shire of Au­gus­taMar­garet River isn’t re­spon­si­ble for ad­dress­ing con­cerns about home­less­ness within the re­gion.

The rul­ing came to last week’s coun­cil meet­ing af­ter adop­tion of a pol­icy in Oc­to­ber re­it­er­at­ing the Shire’s po­si­tion, and an of­fi­cer-led meet­ing with ad­vo­cacy group Just Home in De­cem­ber.

“The con­sen­sus was that the col­lec­tion of data and reg­u­lar re­port­ing is needed to bet­ter un­der­stand the is­sue of home­less­ness within the shire,” the coun­cil re­port said.

Coun­cil­lors were pre­vi­ously un­able to as­cer­tain spe­cific rates of home­less­ness within the shire af­ter ac­tivists used Statewide fig­ures to ar­gue be­tween 80 and 100 peo­ple were home­less lo­cally at any time.

The def­i­ni­tion of home­less­ness — a par­tial fo­cus for of­fi­cers work­ing to meet di­rec­tions from coun­cil­lors con­cerned about the is­sue — also in­cluded itin­er­ant work­ers and van-based trav­ellers with­out per­ma­nent ac­com­mo­da­tion.

The fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment would go into this year’s bud­get ear­marked for three years, though coun­cil­lor Pam Town­shend added a re­quire­ment for “solid data” to be col­lected by the part-funded of­fi­cer based at Mar­garet River Com­mu­nity Re­source Cen­tre.

At last week’s coun­cil meet­ing, Cr Town­shend noted the is­sue came to the Shire af­ter State and Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment “ab­ro­gated re­spon­si­bil­ity over the years” for home­less­ness.

The mo­tion was sup­ported by all seven coun­cil­lors.

“Lo­cal gov­ern­ment al­ways gets sucked into the vor­tex when State and Fed­eral Gov­ern­ments leave the space,” Leeuwin ward’s Kim Hastie said.

“This (out­come) has at least got some checks and bal­ances in the rel­a­tively short term.”

Cr Felic­ity Haynes said the de­ci­sion was an ac­tion to help peo­ple with­out hous­ing.

“It seems ex­actly the right thing to do to sup­port vol­un­teer or­gan­i­sa­tions,” she said.

Just Home would sub­mit an an­nual re­port for the fund­ing to con­tinue and coun­cil­lors said it was not in­tended to con­tinue be­yond the three-year time frame.

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