Vulnerable Women Given Lifeline by WA Government Following Closure of East Perth Night Space


ABC News: Keane Bourke

   Community groups have expressed gratitude for a $210,000 government funding boost aimed at assisting vulnerable women during Christmas and the summer season. This financial support comes as a response to the closure of a crucial overnight shelter, leaving these women with no place to go.

The temporary solution is intended to offer housing, meals, clothing, and other necessities during an ongoing disagreement between the City of Perth and the WA government regarding the site for a new emergency accommodation service.

In recent years, hundreds of women sought refuge at the East Perth Safe Night Space until it was recently shut down. This night space, supported by the City of Perth and operated by community service provider Ruah, served as a last resort for homeless women and those escaping domestic violence under a trial program.

However, this came to a halt at the end of November when Perth Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas decided to close the center, stating the local residents' wish to reclaim the Rod Evans Community Centre for their use.

Since then, a deadlock between the state government and Mr. Zempilas has persisted. During this period, some of the women who depended on the service have unfortunately been compelled to return to rough sleeping.

A sum of $3.1 million has been allocated by the government for Ruah to sustain the Safe Night Space at the Rod Evans centre. However, Mr. Zempilas supports a proposal from Uniting WA, submitted to the government, to assume control of the service along with the $3.1 million in funding. Uniting WA proposes to operate it from one of its commercial facilities in East Perth.

In either scenario, the City of Perth's approval would be required for a facility to operate overnight.

Both proposals may get backing

Today, Mr. Carey emphasized the necessity for an interim solution until a final decision is reached. He announced the allocation of up to $210,000 to Ruah to secure accommodation, transportation, clothing, and food for the vulnerable women who formerly sought refuge in the safe space.

Mr. Carey mentioned that establishing a new service would take time. He stated, "It is nonsensical and implausible for any homeless service to be delivered in two weeks."

That's why we're introducing this temporary measure while Ruah's planning application is under review by the City of Perth, and as we continue to evaluate the Uniting WA proposal.

Mr. Carey noted the possibility of funding both Ruah and Uniting WA services.

Mark Slattery, Ruah's executive manager of strategy and policy, highlighted that the funding would provide crucial support to women while a more permanent solution is being worked out.

"The relationships we've built with these women have earned their trust, which is really important in encouraging their active involvement and considering long-term solutions," explained Mr. Slattery.

"We will connect them with accommodation and also offer the essential wraparound services they desperately need to keep them safe."

'A Christmas miracle' 

"We have strongly advocated for ensuring the safety of these women, especially during Christmas, where we typically witness an uptick in family and domestic violence, escalating the intensity of violence," she expressed. "To be quite frank, this announcement feels like a Christmas miracle."