VINCENT council is set to allow Manna Inc to keep running its homeless meal service at Weld Park, despite complaints from local Perth residents.
Manna’s approval to operate there runs out this month, and while some neighbours would like to see an end to the food service—which draws homeless to the area—Vincent council staff have recommended the service operates there for another six months and mayor Emma Cole flagged that she wanted to look at a year’s extension.
Manna’s Hot n Healthy food program provides 250 lunches per day for six days a week (soon to drop to five days due to a funding shortfall and difficulty getting volunteers, meaning no more Sunday lunches).
They were meant to find an indoor spot back in 2014 to operate from, but they couldn’t find somewhere big enough that’d be affordable so they were granted an extra year in 2015 and another extra year in 2016.
Neighbouring shop owners, restaurants and residents have complained for years that the service brings threatening people to the park, and we’ve heard stories of some occasional violence.
In the past 12 months, the Nyoongar Outreach Services have been called in 16 times to resolve violence and unrest, and homeless people themselves report feeling nervous queuing up when there’s a fight going on.
And now other outreach services have been coming down to the square making it a bit of a homeless hotspot.
Many of those who use the service are in dire need: a Curtin University School of Public Health study released in June, revealed that 56 per cent of people using food services had gone without food for one day in the previous week, and 27 per cent had taken food from a rubbish bin.
The six-month approval that Vincent councillors will vote on next week comes with conditions: Manna volunteers will need to pick up all rubbish left by their clients before they leave, and the council’s administration will meet with WA Police, Manna, Salvation Army and other groups to “determine a consolidated approach to service delivery at Weld Square that balances a response to homelessness with reasonable park amenity for local residents”.
by DAVID BELL