Advocate: Keep safe space

Lord mayor Basil Zempilas said the McGowan government had lifted its game on homelessness, but more could be done.

A HOMELESSNESS support worker has urged Perth council to keep running the Safe Night Space for women beyond its two year trial.

In May 2021 Perth council opened the SNS in the Rod Evans Centre on Hay Street to provide shelter and safety for women with the hopes it’d help the transition into permanent housing. 

It’s run by homeless support group Ruah, whose general manager for housing and homelessness Elsie Blay has implored the council to keep it open past the mid-2023 end of the trial.

“Women experiencing homelessness is a crisis in Perth,” Ms Blay told councillors at the May 24 briefing.

“Women experiencing homelessness deserve a safe place and together, we can’t let this service fall through the gaps.

“We have seen the unexpected and positive outcomes for the women who use this space over the past year; women who have moved into permanent housing, have been able to begin a journey of rehabilitation from alcohol, have been reunited with family, an a group of people who are now engaging in employment.”

She said when the service first opened in the cold winter of 2021, there was an average of 25 women a night taking shelter.

Those numbers have been lower lately. “The numbers are dropping because these people are now in housing,” Ms Blay said, but the need was still there: “What we’ve seen is people newly coming into homelessness, so this service needs to continue.”

Earlier that day Perth lord mayor Basil Zempilas spoke about the SNS to a parliamentary inquiry into homelessness services.

He said in “almost 12 months now of operation the city of Perth safe night space for women has assisted 886 individuals on more than 4000 occasions… just over 4000 individuals have received shelter and assistance instead of being vulnerable, out in the cold, in danger, and on the sleeps.

“And the experts tell us that three consecutive good night’s sleep can be the difference between staying on the streets or reconnecting with family or service providers.”

He said many of those using the service were women over age 55.

He said the first year the SNS had helped 80 to 100 women into transitional or permanent housing, 30 women enter rehabilitation, 20 Aboriginal women helped back to country, and 10 women helped to get antenatal care via King Edward Memorial Hospital.

The council’s overarching “Rough Sleeper Plan” that led to the SNS opening is up for consideration by council at its May 31 meeting. Unless councillors decide to make a change, the plan says the SNS will close at the end of the trial mid-2023.

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