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New report reveals extent of Indigneous WA homelessness crisis

Giovanni Torre -

New data shows Aboriginal people remain radically over-represented in Western Australia's homeless population.

The figures also show a sharp rise in the number of people using government-funded homelessness services in the state, particularly in the north.

Compiled by the University of WA Centre for Social Impact, the Ending Homelessness in WA 2022 report provides an overview of homelessness in Western Australia, a decade of data held by community agencies, and studies of the initiatives and programs aimed at ending homelessness in the state.

Centre director Paul Flatau said the data showed a significant over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in WA's homeless population.

"While making up only 3.1 per cent of the general population, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders form 29.1 per cent of the homeless population in the Census," he said.

"Aboriginal people make up an even higher proportion of those receiving support form homeless services.

"The population of people experiencing homelessness in Western Australia is characterised by an over-representation of Aboriginal people who have experienced family or domestic violence, people with mental health issues, young people, and people with substance use issues."

The data was drawn from the Census of Population and Housing, the WA Zero Project, and government funded homelessness and housing support services called Specialist Homelessness Services.

Mr Flatau said use of homelessness services in WA had increased from 2,252 people per month in 2017 to 3.131 in 2022.

"While only 6.3 per cent of Western Australians live in remote or very remote WA, 36 per cent of the clients who accessed Specialist Homelessness Services, resided in remote or very remote areas, with the outback north having the highest rate in Australia," he said.

The report contains the results of 10 years of work through the WA Zero Project and the 50 Lives Campaign, which have provided information on the needs of people experiencing rough sleeping homelessness.

WA Alliance to End Homelessness executive director David Pearson said the report provided a stocktake of the status of efforts to end homelessness.

"Ending homelessness is possible, we know this because more and more communities around the world are demonstrating it," he said.

"What the dashboard and report... show is that we need to speed up the implementation of the homelessness strategy and along with investment into social housing, ensure sustainable funding of homelessness services to meet need."

Shelter WA chief executive Michelle Mackenzie said the data exposed a need for stakeholders to work together on housing, health and homelessness.

"Without suitable housing and appropriate wrap around supports, many people are trapped into a cycle of long-term homelessness," she said.

A Department of Communities spokesperson said the Department was yet to verify the report's accuracy.

The spokesperson said $225 million had been committed in the 2022/23 WA budget to services and accommodation to support people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness or family and domestic violence.

"The State Government has committed an additional $408 million towards housing and homelessness measures," they said.

"This includes $350 million for the Remote Communities Fund, which will support improved water, power and municipal services, and increase housing availability in remote Aboriginal communities."

The spokesperson said the WA Government was investing $2.4 billion over four years to improve social housing and homelessness services, including construction of 3,300 new social housing properties.

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