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Charities Blamed for Homeless Problem


9 July 2015 at 11:40 am
Xavier Smerdon
The Australian charity sector has fired back at a Western Australian Government Minister who claimed that the charities weren’t “doing their jobs properly” in addressing homelessness.

Xavier Smerdon | 9 July 2015 at 11:40 am


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Charities Blamed for Homeless Problem
9 July 2015 at 11:40 am

The Australian charity sector has fired back at a Western Australian Government Minister who claimed that the charities weren’t “doing their jobs properly” in addressing homelessness.

Police Minister Liza Harvey told a media conference that charities had adequate funding and services available to mean that there should not be any homeless people in Western Australia.

Her comments came after the Department of Culture and Arts installed a motion-sensor sprinkler system in a stairwell at the King Street Arts Centre in Perth often used by homeless people as a form of shelter.

The Department has since turned off the sprinkler system, five days after it was installed and admitted that it may not have been “appropriate”.

But when questioned about the incident, Harvey said it pointed to a larger problem of charities and Not for Profit groups not pulling their weight.

"The accommodation is there, the support services are there, the Not for Profit groups are there, the money's flowing into the system," Harvey is reported as saying.

"Clearly if there's homeless people sleeping on King Street, those people aren't doing their jobs properly."

Western Australian Council of Social Service (WACOSS) CEO, Irina Cattalini, said it was not fair to blame charities that were working beyond their means.

“Homeless services operate at full capacity every night in Perth,” Cattalini said.

“Charities are doing all they can not only to make full use of the overnight crisis accommodation that is available but to stretch every dollar as far as possible with both Government funding and that from public fundraising. Charitable services include assertive outreach services on the streets, providing food, clothing, medical support and other provisions. But the charitable sector alone can not be responsible for solving homelessness.”

“I'm sure homeless services would be happy to brief Minister Harvey on the complexities of homelessness and what can be done in her portfolios to help.”

Community Council for Australia CEO, David Crosbie, told Pro Bono Australia News that Harvey had missed the mark and that charities supporting homeless people were doing their best with limited resources.

“Government ministers need to be very careful taking cheap shots at charities,” Crosbie said.

“Most charities are doing amazing work with limited funding and government support. This is particularly true for many homeless services.

“Rather than turning hoses on the homeless and making them suffer more, [Ministers] would do well to spend a night with them and learn a little about their experiences.   

“The questions she needs to answer are where is the affordable housing,where are the training programs and jobs, where are the mental health and drug treatment services, where are the chronic illness services? Blaming charities does not answer these questions.”

Last year London Mayor Boris Johnson was petitioned to remove metal spikes that had been installed out the front of apartment blocks to stop homeless people from sleeping there.

More than 130,000 people signed the petition and a developer eventually agreed to remove the spikes.


Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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