Plea for safe space

WOMEN living homeless on Perth’s streets fear they’ll have no place to go if funding is cut off for the Safe Night Space in East Perth.

Perth council is mulling over whether to stretch the budget to keep Safe Night Space going another 6-12 months.

“We’d be lost without this place,” one woman sleeping in the East Perth SNS said. “They’re going to see more ladies being assaulted and raped” if they’re returned to the streets.

She said other services were either full or required too many hoops to jump through to be admitted, and many women needing a place to stay urgently would struggle with navigating paperwork or interviews.

The City opened the SNS for women in the Rod Evans Centre on Hay Street in 2021, contracting homelessness services provider Ruah to run the place. 

It was originally a stop-gap measure until more state government homeless facilities were opened up, like the Murray Hotel planned to open with 30 beds this year, and the Ruah Centre for Women and Children that’s proposed to open with 14 beds in Northbridge by 2024, but has found an easy-entry niche. 

Funding ends in May, and the city has to weigh up rising costs if it continues funding. It costs $1.08 million a year to run, but Ruah has been shouldering extra costs from bringing in specialist staff for clients’ complex needs.

Another year’s funding would cost the council $1.45m (and still leave Ruah, a not-for-profit, to cover $258,000 in additional costs). 

Ruah’s housing GM Elsie Blay spoke to councillors at a briefing this week, urging them to continue the service.

“The impact of Safe Nights closing without any similar service will have a profound impact on this growing issue in the city. In January this year we’ve had 112 women who have newly needed our service,” Ms Blay said.

“Ruah and the City [of Perth] have worked together to support hundreds of women who were rough sleeping and came to Safe Nights, and who are now in permanent housing.

“There is no alternative to Safe Nights. It’s the only service of its kind… it’s had a significant impact in giving practical solutions for women to turn their lives around, like the woman who’s recently started TAFE and now has a job in hospitality, the woman who’s back with her kids and staying away from drug use, the woman in stable housing now working in a café.”

A staff report said there’s been an average of two calls to police a week in relation to the trouble at and around the centre, but still recommended a six-month funding extension. 

The centre runs 7pm to 7am, and a few women stay outside or in the nearby park during the day. A neighbouring playground is now less popular, with parents wary of rough sleepers.

Lord mayor Basil Zempilas noted there had been some extra beds made available by the state government since the SNS opened, but was frustrated its 112-unit ‘Common Ground’ facility in East Perth had been delayed again.


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