State Government and Centacare program boosts support services for homeless in Geraldton during housing crisis

Headshot of Lisa Favazzo
Lisa FavazzoGeraldton Guardian
Centacare executive manager of programmes Ella Ailenei.
Camera IconCentacare executive manager of programmes Ella Ailenei. Credit: The Geraldton Guardian

A soup truck, regular foreshore barbecues, and access to shower and laundry services will be offered to Geraldton’s homeless population — as well as help finding appropriate housing — under a $2.4 million program which will begin its rollout this week.

One of the project’s key players said everyone deserved access to safe, secure and appropriate housing.

“People do change their lives. They may stumble a few times, but with the right support in place they will make a difference,” Centacare executive manager of programs Ella Ailenei said.

The Geraldton arm of the State Government-funded Housing First program will begin its rollout on Thursday, with outreach service provider Centacare managing the multimillion-dollar contract.

Late last year, a Connections Week survey found 56 people were sleeping on Geraldton’s streets, reporting an average of 6.5 years spent homeless.

Ms Ailenei said the staff and volunteers involved would work “consistently and persistently” to form meaningful relationships with people sleeping on the streets in Geraldton.

The team will run a soup truck, organise barbecues, and offer shower and laundry facilities — all to build relationships and connect people with services and find them appropriate housing.

“The emphasis will be on connecting with people and getting them in the system. Some might not even be getting Centrelink benefits,” Ms Ailenei said.

Geraldton’s vacancy rate is 1.3 per cent, and the priority public housing waitlist has tripled since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“The very limited housing stock available in Geraldton is a significant concern,” Ms Ailenei said. “We will work as hard as we can to assist these people.”

The veteran community worker wants everyone to consider what they can do to help, including volunteering or donating. “Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to tackle homelessness,” she said.

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