Homeless health first

Community services minister Simone McGurk and WA health minister Roger Cook launch the new medical respite centre.

THE old Witch’s Hat hostel on Palmerston Street has been turned into the state’s first medical respite centre with 20 beds for homeless people recovering after being in hospital.

The current system has been identified by UWA researchers as leading to ‘revolving door’ hospitals where homeless people are discharged back to the poor living conditions that contributed to their health issues, only to quickly return to hospital.

Community services minister Simone McGurk said “people who suffer from chronic homelessness often have complex needs relating to health, mental health, disabilities, abuse and addiction.

“This 24-7 medical respite centre will serve the dual purpose of addressing the health concerns of vulnerable patients experiencing homelessness, while providing an important opportunity for them to link in with a range of funded support services while they are being cared for in a stable environment.”

Health minister Roger Cook said the centre would help people into other transitional or permanent accommodation once they’d recuperated.

In the 90s the Witch’s Hat was a housing and support facility for people recovering from substance abuse. It later became a hostel for backpackers and occasionally homeless people.

Perth state Labor MP John Carey lives a stone’s throw away and tells us the feedback he’s got from neighbours has been positive.

“I am asked by residents sometimes: Why do we put these kinds of services in the city? That’s because we want to provide services close to where homeless people are, [and] close to hospitals and medical services.

“This is not a drop in centre: People attending this accommodation must have a referral from a hospital.”

He said it should have a lower impact on neighbours than previous uses. 

“My understanding is this has been used for temporary accommodation for people experiencing homelessness. What you will see is better wraparound services now provided.”

He said along with the new 100-bed accommodation opening up on Wellington Street this month, this centre would help while waiting for construction of the more long term ‘Common Ground’ housing hubs. Construction on the first one in East Perth is due to start this financial year.

For now there are still more homeless than beds, with Perth council’s rough sleeper count hitting 191 people in the CBD in March.

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