Council out of hostel loop

PERTH lord mayor Basil Zempilas says his council was left out of the loop over a McGowan government plan to lease a hostel for rough sleepers – which has left the premier with egg on his face.

On Sunday Mark McGowan announced the government would house 100 people in a “Wellington Street facility”, but it turned out it didn’t have a lease, the old 1940s ambulance building building was being sold for possible redevelopment, and was already being used by a youth hostel.

Mr Zempilas said he was “surprised” not to have heard from the government about the plan, particularly as the city had been a one-time partner in combatting homelessness.

The council’s now-retired state-appointed commissioners had been on a joint working group for about a year, but the new council elected in October wasn’t consulted at all.

Mr Zempilas put out a statement saying he’d been contacted by ratepayers asking for clarity, with people wanting to know if security and support services had been engaged and if there was a back-up plan if there was overflow.

“The reality is I can’t give them any because I’m disappointed to say we were not consulted on this decision,” Mr Zempilas said.

“If this announcement can be read as the government of WA stepping up to accept responsibility for people who are experiencing homelessness, that is very welcome. But given we have been very active in this space at considerable expense, I am surprised there was no consultation.” 

In November, with the prospect of the state government’s Common Ground solution still years away and nearly 300 people sleeping on the street in its boundaries, the council voted to fund “Safe Night Spaces”. These were support centres without beds where people could hang out during the night. A $575,000 refit of the Rod Evans Centre has seen it converted to a space for 30 women.

The council is after a state government contribution of $4.5m to help run the centres but hadn’t any commitment when the hostel solution was announced.

Following the Wellington Street gaffe, community services minister Simone McGurk said the government was still looking at other possible venues, leaving Mr Zempilas scratching his head about how it might impact on the council’s safe night space or potential co-funding.

by DAVID BELL

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