Vinnies drop-in centre approved

A VINNIE’S drop-in centre for young homeless people will relocate to 143 Edwards Street after being approved by Vincent council.

St Vincent de Paul’s Passages drop-in centre has outgrown its site on Palmerston Street where it’s been running since 1999, offering homeless people aged 12 to 25 daytime services like a free kitchen and bathroom facilities.

Nearby neighbours sent in 91 submissions about the centre, with 86 objecting to the relocation.

Residents were concerned the centre would attract more homeless people to the area and increase antisocial behaviour. There’s also two brothels nearby prompting questions about whether this was the right spot for vulnerable young people.

At Tuesday’s council meeting several residents relayed stories about how they’d already had bad experiences with homeless people in the area, with one woman saying she’d needed a police escort because people were sleeping out on her porch.

Another said they had to deal with homeless leaving rubbish, human waste and discarded syringes around their properties.

Vinnies invited concerned residents to an information night on July 20 in an attempt to allay their worries but almost none of the objectors showed up, with only one property owner and one resident attending.

Vincent mayor Emma Cole said she took the neighbours’ concerns seriously but voted to approve it because “this is a service that has been running for 18 years and when we have gone to the City of Perth and fact checked on complaints… we’ve seen there were two complaints in 2016. Whenever there is a complaint they have acted and resolved the complaint.

“The people that are accessing the service are young people that are not necessarily grappling with severe drug issues, but are those who are wanting to get on the right path and start to job seek and start to try to turn their lives around.

“Vinnies in moving into this area is seeking to be part of the solution… they’re seeking to deal with homelessness, not increase homelessness.”

St Vincent de Paul’s state manager for homeless services Gayle Mitchell told Tuesday’s meeting: “I understand the fear of the unknown, and it doesn’t help with the sensationalised representation in the media of the youth in our community, or the already negative experiences this community has had with homeless people.”

But she said Passages’ clients “are young people who want support, and who want the opportunity and the chance to change their circumstances.

“I was on the floor at Passages today, something I get the pleasure to do when we’re short-staffed, and the young people I supported today were not creating havoc or chaos at the service or in the wider community.

“I worked with eight young people, who were basically trying to access Centrelink, have breakfast and showers, and told me they were job hunting—but obviously as teenagers they were probably on Facebook.

“There are moments when our young people do have tantrums and are angry at the world, and they have very good reason to be, but we have a team of astonishing youth workers and the clients have respect for the service.

“They want to be a positive part of the community and they would not want to risk the service being shut down due to their behaviours.”

Ms Mitchell said the rate of homelessness in Perth was growing at an alarming rate.

As councillors voted unanimously to approve the relocation, the eight or so residents and staff from a planning firm they hired shuffled out, one describing the decision as “disappointing”.

The centre will run Monday to Friday, 8am to 4.30pm, provide showers, laundry, food, clothes, computers and a mail service, alcohol and drug counselling and medical services

It’ll have a maximum of 20 clients and seven staff at any one time.

by DAVID BELL

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