Home

Mid West and Gascoyne councils wary of State’s move on homeless issue

Headshot of Elise Van Aken
Elise Van AkenGeraldton Guardian
A homeless man sleeps.
Camera IconA homeless man sleeps. Credit: TRACEY NEARMY/AAPIMAGE

Leaders of the Mid West and Gascoyne’s two biggest councils have spoken out against the State Government’s plan to co-fund local governments’ responses to homelessness, saying it was shifting responsibility for the issue.

Last week, ahead of Homelessness week, Community Services Minister Simone McGurk announced the Government’s $6 million Local Government Partnership Fund for Homelessness, from which it would provide one-off financial co-contributions to projects identified and led by local governments to respond to and prevent homelessness across WA.

RELATED NEWS

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.

READ NOW
Housing Minister John Carey and Community Services Minister Simone McGurk comment on housing and homelessness. Picture Ian Munro
Camera IconHousing Minister John Carey and Community Services Minister Simone McGurk comment on housing and homelessness. Picture Ian Munro Credit: The West Australian

She said the fund encouraged partnerships with local governments to ensure there were responses to homelessness in their communities that were locally designed, co-ordinated and implemented, with grants ranging from $25,000 to $200,000.

“As a result of the work the State Government has been doing with local governments to help address homelessness around the State, there has been growing acknowledgement of the role that they can play in delivering solutions,” she said.

“This $6 million fund will encourage State and local government partnerships that involve local decision-makers identifying and driving responses that are tailored to their area.

“This Homelessness Week, we commit to continue working in partnership with the homelessness services sector, local governments, business and communities towards a WA where everyone has a safe and comfortable place to sleep.”

As a result of the work the State Government has been doing with local governments to help address homelessness around the State, there has been growing acknowledgement of the role that they can play in delivering solutions.

- Community Services Minister Simone McGurk
City of Greater Geraldton mayor Shane Van Styn said the corona virus has had a chilling effect on Geraldton's tourism and crayfishing industries.
Camera IconCity of Greater Geraldton mayor Shane Van Styn said the corona virus has had a chilling effect on Geraldton's tourism and crayfishing industries. Credit: Geraldton Guardian

City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn said while local governments were responsible for some welfare services, such as creating “friendly community spaces”, it did not have the resourcing to co-fund and fully manage homelessness programs.

“This is a very disturbing proposal that sees the majority of the work being provided by local government,” he said.

“Homelessness and social housing are a complex and very expensive issues to resolve and only the State Government has the financial and physical resources to deliver solutions.

“Having met with the Housing Minister and departmental managers and chiefs, there have been no conversations around this so I’m unsure as to where this has come from.

“There are 119 vacant State Government houses in Geraldton today...the City has been engaged in the Spalding revitalisation plans for many years and was ready with money to contribute, that is the solution and that’s what needs to happen.”

Shire of Carnarvon president Eddie Smith
Camera IconShire of Carnarvon president Eddie Smith Credit: Cally Dupe/The Countryman

Shire of Carnarvon president Eddie Smith said it was outside the role of local government to respond to homelessness and more duties were being given to Shires without adequate funding.

“I wouldn’t be keen for local government to step into that area; it sounds and probably looks like the State Government is trying to shift some of their responsibility onto local government,” he said.

“There has been more and more foisted upon local government than ever before, especially on to small towns like ours.

“We don’t have the funding for this type of work and it’s increasingly difficult to get funding.”

There has been more and more foisted upon local government than ever before, especially on to small towns like ours.

- Shire of Carnarvon president Eddie Smith.
Wanneroo Mayor Tracey Roberts.
Camera IconWanneroo Mayor Tracey Roberts. Credit: City of Wanneroo

WA Local Government Association president and City of Wanneroo Mayor Tracey Roberts , who was this week announced as Labor’s candidate in Liberal Christian Porter’s Federal electorate of Pearce, said local government had powers to facilitate responses to end homelessness, but did did not have a lead role.

“Primary responsibility for addressing homelessness sits with the State Government, with local government playing a key supporting role as a facilitator between stakeholders such as local agencies, community groups and those experiencing homelessness themselves,” she said.

“WALGA welcomes this funding opportunity for those local governments that are in a position to engage in these activities...there are others, however, who may not be in a position to engage in this program and we expect State Government support through existing programs and mechanisms to be maintained.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails