Close Search

‘It’s just horrible’: Community sector dismayed by homeless ‘tent cities’ in WA

15 January 2021 at 5:31 pm
Luke Michael
“Western Australia is a really wealthy state and we have people living in tents. It's just extraordinary. It's so wrong.”    

Luke Michael | 15 January 2021 at 5:31 pm


‘It’s just horrible’: Community sector dismayed by homeless ‘tent cities’ in WA
15 January 2021 at 5:31 pm

“Western Australia is a really wealthy state and we have people living in tents. It’s just extraordinary. It’s so wrong.”    

Community groups are calling on the Western Australian government to bolster investment in social housing and homelessness services, to remedy a crisis that’s left homeless people living in makeshift “tent cities”.  

Around 70 people are currently living in tents in the centre of Fremantle, after a group of volunteers from the community set up the camp on Boxing Day.

It was established as a temporary food and shelter option for vulnerable people at a time when homelessness services were reduced, but remains in place with no end date in sight.

There are several other tent cities in WA, including one in East Perth, and community groups say their existence reflects a desperate desire from vulnerable people to find stable housing. 

Shelter WA CEO Michelle Mackenzie told Pro Bono News that while it was admirable that the camp had been set up by concerned members of the community, it was not a long-term solution.

“The problem with people living in tents is it’s not sustainable, it’s not safe, and it’s not necessarily linked to the service system that can provide a long-term, good permanent outcome for a person,” Mackenzie said.

“We need to link the volunteers to professional services so people who are homeless get the support and the permanent housing that they need.”

Mackenzie said the key causes of the crisis were a severe lack of social housing and inadequate funding for the homelessness service system. There is currently a shortfall of 39,200 social and 19,300 affordable homes across the state. 

She said WA needed a “serious injection of funds into the social housing system”. 

“We need 2,500 homes each year for the next four years,” she said. 

“We also need some investment into the homelessness services system. This government has injected some funds, which has been really welcome, but we just need more.

“And really without the homes, it’s really hard to deliver the government’s agenda of a housing first response to [homelessness].”

Mackenzie said she struggled to comprehend the state’s homelessness crisis, adding that action must be taken urgently. 

“It’s just horrible. I live in Fremantle and I’ve been down there… WA is a really wealthy state and we have people living in tents. It’s just extraordinary. It’s so wrong,” she said. 

The Imagined Futures Housing and Homelessness Group – which includes specialist housing, homelessness and other community groups – has been coordinating responses to the increasing levels of street homelessness in WA.

Imagined Futures executive officer Leigh Sinclair thanked the Fremantle camp volunteers for their efforts supporting the homelessness community but said they should now support local specialist services which have professional experience handling homelessness.

“For the generous and caring people who have been supporting the camp, the best thing they can do to help end homelessness is to get behind the work of the range of specialist support services working in the Fremantle community,” Sinclair said.

This sentiment was echoed by WA Community Services Minister Simone McGurk, who told Pro Bono News: “The most constructive way that the community can help vulnerable people to get the assistance they need is to direct them to experienced homelessness service providers.”

McGurk said the WA Department of Communities had been working with homelessness service providers to better understand the needs of people at the Fremantle camp.

She said work was under way to ensure that everyone at the camp who needs crisis accommodation and support is offered it. 

“The safety of the community is the primary factor when considering the future of the camp,” she said.

“There have been reports of several minor incidents at the site, which is why the Department of Communities and funded service providers are working to link people at the camp who are receptive to being supported into temporary accommodation with short-term housing as quickly as possible.”

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

PB Careers
Get your biweekly dose of news, opinion and analysis to keep you up to date with what’s happening and why it matters for you, sent every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

Got a story to share?

Got a news tip or article idea for Pro Bono News? Or perhaps you would like to write an article and join a growing community of sector leaders sharing their thoughts and analysis with Pro Bono News readers? Get in touch at or download our contributor guidelines.


Create a Reconciliation Action Plan/></a></div></div>    </div>





    <div class=

Get more stories like this


One comment

  • Michael Woodhouse says:

    Volunteers did something to improve the lives of homeless people today, by putting up tents.
    It’s not perfect or sustainable but it’s helping people now.
    According to your report, the response of Shelter and the Minister and the Imagined Futures Housing and Homelessness Group is to tell those volunteers to stop what they are doing and go support the professionals.
    The implication is explicit: bumbling volunteers can’t do work intended for paid professionals.
    Let’s try this the other way round: the professionals and agencies should go support the volunteers. Take direction from them.
    A messy flawed community driven solution that’s working now is way better than a perfect professional solution at some maybe future date.
    What this article says to me is that the model of professional do-gooders is risky, ineffective – and not sustainable.
    Suggesting that the tent city volunteers refocus on supporting professionals rather than helping homeless people gives new meaning to “cold as charity”.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Renovating the great Australian dream

Brugh O'Brien

Tuesday, 10th May 2022 at 4:09 pm

Housing forum showcases fixes for a broken ecosystem

Danielle Kutchel

Monday, 9th May 2022 at 4:58 pm

pba inverse logo
Subscribe Twitter Facebook