Member Profile: Beverley Bone

| By Royceton Hardey 

There is a well-worn path I take each time I visit Fremantle. 

Exiting the train station, I walk along Phillimore Street where I turn down one of the many side roads leading towards Fishing Boat Harbour. The offshore breeze gets pushed along this route taking the salty smell of fish & chips to your face. 

My journey is so entrenched in my psyche that I must remind myself that this time I’m in Freo for a different reason. 

I’m walking towards Kings Square to conduct an interview at the offices of the City of Fremantle, and I stride down High Street Mall towards my destination. As I round the corner, I’m greeted by an unusual scene. A huge construction site with many moving parts is in operation. Thumping shrills of scraping metal reverberate off buildings as I search for a place which is no longer there. 

I reach for my phone. 

The Council is now temporarily based at Fremantle Oval, while the Kings Square redevelopment is underway. You couldn’t complain about the view, the Oval is well maintained, and its centimetre perfect grass attracts a few meandering seagulls. I suspect the location makes the office tour a lot more interesting for Beverley Bone, the Manager of Community Development at City of Fremantle.

As we enter through the library she points to a passageway.

Beverley Bone, Manager of Community Development at the City of Fremantle.

“This is where the Fremantle Football Club changing rooms used to be,” she said. This whole library was the gymnasium, all the weight machines and gym equipment were in here and our offices are now out the back.”

Beverley finds an empty room and I pull up a chair. I’d been told about the great work she was doing in the area of homelessness and I was curious about what’s being done.

“It is quite common for coastal areas to be populated with the homeless,” said Beverley. “People will sleep in their cars or in sand dunes at South Beach. And this is the same for Joondalup, Wanneroo, Mandurah and Rockingham because of the public toilet facilities available.”

This is where Fremantle’s Community Safety Team come in handy.

The in-house multi-skilled team not only perform ranger work but carry out security safety. Instead of relying on a car-based approach the team has foot and bike patrols which provide better community engagement with the homeless.

“It makes a big difference having people engaged face-to-face,” explains Beverley. “They get to know who the people are and their names. Our bike patrols are linked in with the Alma Street Centre’s outreach workers, so if one of the most vulnerable is on the street and they haven’t taken their medication they can ask the patrols to look around for him or her and can provide a location if they are found.”

In addition to the Community Safety Team are local community groups.

“The social fabric within our community are really wanting change and they really have a heart. You’ll find we have some homeless support groups who are just people living in Fremantle,” said Beverley.

One example is the Ruth Marshall led Street Friends group. The group which won the Council’s Active Citizenship Award is a weekly volunteer-run service that provides the homeless with healthy food options, toiletries, clothes, blankets and friendly company.

“When I met Ruth and learnt more about her group, we built a good relationship where the group are now storing warm blankets and dry stuff in one of our Council areas,” said Beverley. “There’s no red tape we just nip it in the bud as quick as we can.”

Larger groups such as St. Patrick's Community Support Centre (St. Pat’s) are becoming increasingly aware of the power of joining forces with other groups, this has been achieved through a collective impact approach around tackling homelessness by bringing all the stakeholders together and incorporating the voice of the lived experience.

All these different relief food and street groups were not engaging with each other,” Beverley recalls. Some of the bigger accommodation providers could both have vacancies without the other knowing. Now St. Pat’s are taking the lead on this and are bringing all these different groups together.”

The City of Fremantle has a strong relationship with St. Pat’s through the Donate Without Doubt campaign. Each donation is matched by the City of Fremantle and given to St. Pat’s.

The Donate Without Doubt campaign.

Most of Beverley’s work comes from starting a simple conversation.

“I met a young man who was living in his car when I went to a Fremantle UnitingCare West tea and coffee morning for the homeless,” exclaimed Beverley.

“He had been working along the Henderson Strip in Kwinana as a welder and he used to fly off the handle at work and this led him to lose his job. He realised after a while he needed to change his behaviour.”

The man began using the library regularly to look for work through job agencies. Staff are specifically taught a respectful person-centred approach in the safe space of the library which encourages interaction. In one such conversation with Beverley the man expressed his concern about a lack of recent experience in welding as a couple of years had passed since his last job.

“I suggested our Men’s Shed,” said Beverley. “I knew the Hilton Shed had welding, so I met the man there and I introduced him to the boss of this Shed. They provided all these programs and they were able to give him relevant and current experience.

“In this case he wasn’t after welfare he just needed a break, a job.”

For homeless people legal issues can pile up quickly when going through a crisis. The need to survive takes priority over legal concerns which can pile up to an exhaustive level. When a homeless person can start picking up the pieces previous legal issues can create serious roadblocks.

The City of Fremantle has the only local government run in-house community legal centre with a tenant advocate who can assist with issues relating to the breach of rental agreements and evictions. It also provides legal services in relation to family and domestic violence matters.

As I wrap up our chat Beverley takes me through a different part of the library to witness the safe space in action. Each computer terminal is being used and some have brought their own devices thanks to the free Wi-Fi. A man is being assisted by a staff member at a photocopier, and it looks like his résumé has been printed. While its difficult to tell if any of the people are homeless, the facilities provided would be vital for anyone wishing to get back on their feet.

“We get out of bed to do the best we can each day,” Beverley said as we head outside. “The roles that we play, and our front-line staff, library, front of house, customer service and our Community Safety Team are aware of the need to continually engage.”

If you would like to give to the Donate Without Doubt campaign click here.

"Projects begin with an idea, a passion and a realisation that whatever has been done to address the defined problem in the past is no longer working - it is time to do differently" (Together SA). Local Government together with SHELTER WA can play a key advocacy and facilitation role with the broader community around the causes of homelessness, and support for the solutions." - Beverley Bone, Manager Community Development, City of Fremantle.

 

 

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