Options lacking for Geraldton’s homeless

Tamra CarrGeraldton Guardian
Rachael Ferris with a warm blanket and a bed roll.
Camera IconRachael Ferris with a warm blanket and a bed roll. Credit: The Geraldton Guardian, Tamra Carr

A healthcare worker who was homeless in her 20s believes more life-skill education would reduce the rate of people living without permanent shelter in Geraldton.

Rachael Ferris, a Midwest Community Drug and Alcohol Service employee, said she had met many homeless people through her work, and circumstances had worsened following the closures of crisis accommodation service Cameliers Guest House and Geraldton Sobering Up Centre.

She said homeless people used to bounce between services and there were now “not a lot of options left”.

“You might not see them on the street but there are people couch surfing, sleeping in sheds and in carports, all over the place,” Ms Ferris said.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

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


“There’s a hell of a lot of homeless people around.”

Ms Ferris’ own experience with homelessness was a turbulent two-year period in her 20s, when she regularly travelled by car across the country to see her mother and father.

One parent lived in Perth and another lived in Queensland and there were times in transit when she had nothing, not even a vehicle to sleep in.

“Some of what happened was choice, where I had to leave certain circumstances behind,” she said.

“But that’s when I met quite a few people in the welfare industry who really helped me.”

The 46-year-old, who has since completed a Diploma in Community Services, said homelessness could be disrupted by teaching people how to manage lives, run households, budget and thrive in a community.

Ms Ferris wants to give back to the community that supported her by running an annual winter appeal.

She asked residents to donate any spare winter woollies to the homeless, and said sometimes a one-off donation was not enough.

“You might find new clothes last someone a few months or only a couple of days, because they’re not always taking them to the laundry,” Ms Ferris said.

“They might stash items somewhere, only to find the Shire [City] has removed them, or they have been stolen.

“We tend to give away pretty much everything we collect and that kind of kindness can go a long way when someone is in a position of extreme doubt. It provides a spark of faith to just keep going.”

Ms Ferris is making bed rolls for Geraldton’s homeless community and is collecting winter clothes, tarpaulins, mattresses and other items.

To arrange a donation drop-off, phone Ms Ferris on 0447 144 640.

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

Sign up for our emails