Kicked from pillar to post

Phillicia Garlett and family are camped beside a cycle path: there’s nowhere else left to go. Photo by Steve Grant.

IF homelessness is becoming a game of “political football” in the Perth council elections, Phillicia Garlett and her family are the pigskin.

They’ve been bounced around the decidedly uneven playing surface of Perth’s CBD and into its farthest pockets; their latest shelter under the Lord Street overpass in Highgate seems so precarious it feels like there’s nothing after that but to drop off the face of the earth.

Ms Garlett, a granddaughter of the late, respected Noongar pastor Sealin Garlett, and a dozen or so family members have pitched their tents along the dual use path from the nearby McIver train station.

There’s so little room cyclists have to weave around them.

Across the path is a small gravel strip where they’d been out of the way of the bikes, but a fortnight ago Transperth put up a big ringlock fence to ensure that option was out.

The group also tried to set up on an empty patch of grass wedged between the railway line, the overpass and the off-ramp of the Graham Farmer Freeway. 

It’s a sump and just about the loudest, most unglamorous address in Perth, but even that was too much for authorities; they were told they were trespassing and to clear out.

“It’s not like we were making fires and burning everything – it’s out of the way,” Ms Garlett says.

The mother-of-two says she’s been on Homeswest’s waiting list off and on since 2002.

“They keep saying me and my partner are not suitable because we don’t fit the criteria and match, but they don’t say what they are.”

Between them the couple have five kids, but they’re all in care with the Department of Child Protection and visits are mostly via video hookups.

“It’s a little bit hard for them; they talk about how they miss mum,” Ms Garlett says.

She’s desperate to bring the family together under one roof, saying it would make it possible to get back on her feet.

Ms Garlett previously worked as a cleaner in the mining industry and holds the relevant training qualifications.

But these days listing “no fixed address” and “no email” on your job application virtually guarantees a knock-back.

“It’s really sad.

“I’d love to help my family get into accommodation rather than living a hard life like this,” she said.

By STEVE GRANT

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