Inside Housing - October 19/2018
Please read the latest edition of our fortnightly newsletter, Inside Housing.
Inside this edition...
- Shelter WA urges State Parliament not to delay the passage of critical reforms to support the victims of family and domestic violence to remain in their homes.
- We examine a move by the Victorian Government to offer discounted travel passes to those most in need. Could it be good for WA?
- Our Member Profile features award winning architect Michelle Blakeley, and her work in the area of affordable housing.
Plus heaps more including details of the Residential Parks (Long-stay Tenants) Bill 2018 and all the news from our Shelter WA AGM.
Click here to read our newsletter.
Shelter WA is an independent peak body, based in Perth Western Australia, that advocates for social and affordable housing and ending homelessness.
Greater protections for long-stay tenants
The McGowan Government introduced the Residential Parks (Long-stay Tenants) Bill 2018 on Wednesday, 17 October. This Bill aims to reform Residential Parks to improve security of tenure for long-stay tenants, provide clearer rules for park operators and home owners and remove ‘without grounds’ terminations.
In 2016, Shelter WA made a submission in response to a Statutory Review of the Residential Parks (Long-stay Tenants) Act 2006 to the Department of Commerce.
Our submission was informed by consultations undertaken with our members the community sector, and caravan park residents, as well as from an understanding of the affordable housing system in WA.
Over the course of the review process, Shelter WA’s engagement included a community consultation forum, co-hosted with Tenancy WA, which included park owners, residents and tenant advocates, and a focus group with current and former park residents.
Key reforms in the 2018 Bill include:
• Limiting the termination of fixed-term agreements on the sale of a park or if the owner's financier takes possession of the park;
• No longer allowing 'without grounds' terminations of long-stay agreements, instead setting out specific grounds that will provide greater certainty in relation to termination rights;
• Improved disclosure requirements on contractual issues such as exit fees;
• Clearer rules for park operators, home owners and prospective tenants in relation to the sale of homes;
• Clarification of the park operator's ability to enforce compliance with park rules in a fair, reasonable and equitable manner; and
• Standard lease clauses will no longer be able to be varied and the introduction of standard form agreements for new arrangements.
Commerce and Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston said the 2018 Bill will ensure fairer dealings and security of contract between park operators and long-stay tenants.
Shelter WA Chief Executive Officer, Michelle Mackenzie said she was pleased that a number of recommendations put forward by Shelter WA maybe considered within the Bill.
“It is critical that any proposed changes lead to better protections for long-stay residents, many of whom are seniors on limited incomes,” Ms Mackenzie said.
“According to the 2016 Census, 1,026 people in WA were marginally housed in caravan parks, and at risk of homelessness."
UDIA Affordable Housing Event
Shelter WA’s CEO outlined the need for better affordable housing opportunities at an UDIA housing affordability panel held recently in Perth.
WA's Urban Development Institute of Australia City Building; Solving the Housing Affordability Challenge forum brought together experts to discuss the decline in housing affordability in WA over the past 15 years.
The key note speaker was the WA Minister for Housing, Peter Tinley AM MLA. Property expert Gavin Hegney moderated a panel comprised of Executive General Manager of Now Living; Troy Gorton, General Manager of Commercial Operations at the Department of Communities; Nigel Hindmarsh, City of Cockburn’s Chief Executive Officer; Stephen Cain and Michelle Mackenzie, CEO of Shelter WA.
Ms Mackenzie noted that renting was becoming more common as a result of housing affordability issues. A key issue for renters is the lack of diverse, affordable properties that meet the needs of different population groups such as young people, single families and seniors, along with the lack of longer term, secure leases.
“There are 14,000 people on the social housing waitlist and only 1 per cent of rentals in Perth affordable for people on low incomes,” she said.
All panellists agreed that a lack of diverse, affordable housing products, whether for purchase or rent, has implications for many members of our community, and that it is time to reshape the way we talk about housing affordability, diversity and density. “If you want your kids to be able to leave home and live in the same area as you, school teachers to live in the same neighbourhood where they work, or for your parents to be able to downsize and stay in their community there needs to be housing options,” said Nigel Hindmarsh. “This is the conversation we need to have when we talk about density.”
The forum was held in the same week as the release of two rental affordability reports by the Bankwest Curtin Economic Centre.
“The Private Rental Sector in Australia: Public perceptions of Quality and Affordability” and “Housing Security for WA’s Older Renters.”
They showed whilst the private rental market was traditionally seen as a stepping stone to home ownership, this is no longer the case, with private rentals becoming a long term housing option for many in our community.
“Limited access to affordable and secure rental properties contributes to long term housing instability, poverty and homelessness,” said Michelle, in response to the report’s findings.
Each speaker of the panel noted housing that whilst housing affordability is not an easy fix it is critical that there is an ongoing conversation and concerted effort to increase affordable housing supply whether for purchase or for rent.
Energy Efficiency on Rental Properties
Independent South Australian Senator Tim Storer has tabled a private members bill to encourage more landlords to make energy-efficiency upgrades on rental properties.
The Treasury Law Amendment (Improving the Energy Efficiency of Rental Properties) Bill 2018 would allow landlords to claim a tax offset of up to $2,000 per annum for energy efficiency upgrades on rental properties where rent is $300 a week or less.
The Bill has been referred by the Senate to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee for inquiry and a report is expected by the 23 of November 2018.
Shelter WA recognises that renters are often the last to benefit from efficiencies and the savings they represent to Australian household budgets. Often home owners benefit from lower interest rates, rebates and subsidies for energy efficiency provided by the government, while renters are facing rising costs for not only their housing but also costs associated with their housing like water and energy.
Shelter WA supports the aim of the Bill as a response to the fact that low income people who rent are acutely vulnerable to energy poverty.
Victorian Travel Passes
Shelter WA welcomes a move by the Victorian Government to offer discounted travel passes to those most in need as a model that could be trialled in WA.
A ticketing review found many poor, homeless or people who are disadvantaged are forced to fare evade to get to appointments and access basic services.
Victorian Minister for Housing Martin Foley has begun a 12-month trial of weekly and monthly emergency relief tickets, providing heavily discounted public transport travel to disadvantaged Victorians. The passes will also be available to schools to help them support students at risk of disengaging from education.
Victorian legal help provider, Justice Connect, has been pushing for change.
“One of our Homeless Law clients, Tim, had been using public transport to access medical appointments and accrued over $3000 in fines,” it said in a statement. “It will also have a big impact on the thousands of people our Homeless Law team supports to resolve infringements.”
While the trial is a good start Justice Connect believes more can be done.
“We’ll keep drawing on evidence from our casework, and insights from clients, in seeking for the trial to become permanent. It will also be important for the trial to feature clear, consistent and transparent policies, and for longer passes to be explored for those with particular complexity or hardship, who do not meet the health-based criteria for the existing pass.”
Shelter WA CEO, Ms Michelle Mackenzie said, “Seniors in Perth receive free travel from 9.00am to 3.30pm on weekdays. This is a fantastic initiative. This could be extended to include a trial similar to the one occurring in Victoria."
Ann-Margaret Walsh, Principal Solicitor at Street Law Centre WA Inc, a Shelter WA Member, said, “Fines and infringements was one of the most common legal issues for our clients last financial year. Infringements for young people are a particularly crucial issue, as they do not have other means of transport and struggle to pay for their tickets to access public transport. This is a great initiative in Victoria and would be fantastic to see in WA too!”
Shelter WA AGM
This year’s Shelter WA Annual General Meeting was a big success with over 50 participants from industry, government and the community sector coming together to hear the organisation’s achievements over the last year and plans for the future.
Mark Glasson, Shelter WA’s Chair, was impressed with the knowledge and experience combined in the same room.
“It is not a question of if we can end homelessness and secure housing for all, it’s a matter of when.”
Mr Glasson outlined several major achievements by Shelter WA including:
A new strategic plan with a focus on Shelter WA taking a leadership role for the development of an effective housing system, with a greater emphasis on strategic engagement and advocacy, and harnessing the collective strengths of our members, government and the private sector to achieve systemic reform.
And, becoming the backbone of the WA End Homelessness Alliance and securing e-funding from Lotterywest to implement the ten-year plan to end homelessness.
“I’m pleased to announce that a project team has commenced to support implementation of the plan,” Mr Glasson said.
They will be engaging the broader sector and industry on how they can become part of the alliance to end homelessness.”
Also during this year considerable advocacy was undertaken to ensure that Metronet increases more diverse social and affordable housing.
“The government announced a social and affordable housing and jobs package, which was very welcome, but we believe more opportunities could be pursued in partnership in partnership with our sector if the right policy settings are put in place,” Mr Glasson said.
Participants at Shelter WA’s annual general meeting received an update on the work of the Department of Communities.
The Hon Peter Tinley AM MLA, Minister for Housing; Veterans Issues; Youth spoke frankly to attendees about the positive changes being made.
“I want to report,” said Minister Tinley “As one of five Ministers within the Department of Communities, where I see that we are at.”
The Minister proceeded to outline how the Department of Communities was still undertaking a massive cultural change through the amalgamation process. “I would calculate about 30% to 40% of the effort is going to just adopting the change,” Mr Tinley said.
Despite the challenges the Minister said it was a “momentous start.”
The subject of commonwealth funding for housing in remote communities was described as being “at the top of my list” by Mr Tinley was addressed. The issue boiled over after a 10-year $1.2 billion funding agreement for remote housing in WA between the Federal Government and the WA Government concluded.
The Commonwealth’s new offer is $60 million, spread over the next three years is not acceptable. Under the previous Agreement the Commonwealth allocated $100 million annually for remote housing in WA. The WA Government contributes $90 million annually.
“I’ll be visiting Canberra next week,” said Mr Tinley.
“I will remind them (the Federal Government) that they’ve had a 50-year history in funding remote (housing)” The Minister then noted that the Commonwealth has a 60 plus year history of partnership the states for the provision of social housing, this currently defined in what we now know as the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement,” he said.
After the Minister concluded his remarks a general election was conducted by the Chair of the Shelter WA Board, Mark Glasson.
Three new office bearers were elected unopposed to the Board. Michael Piu, Chief Executive Officer of St Patrick’s Community Support Centre as treasurer; Julie Waylen, State Manager of National Disability Services as Vice President; and Justine Colyer, CEO of Rise Network as Secretary.
For the two general board member positions, five people nominated.
The positions were filled by Julia Shadlow-Bath, CEO of the Goldfields Indigenous Housing Organisation and Natalie Sangalli, General Manager Community Housing at Access Housing.
The Chair congratulated the new board members and thanked all people who nominated for positions. Shelter WA looks forward to an ongoing, strong relationship with candidates who weren’t elected to the Board and harnessing their enormous skills to drive the organisation forward.
You can read the annual report by clicking the image.
Shelter WA Board Members:
Mark Glasson (Chair) and Director Services at Anglicare WA
Julie Waylen (Vice Chair) and National Disability Services' State Manager (WA)
Justine Colyer (Secretary) and CEO of Rise Network
Michael Piu (Treasurer) and CEO of St Patrick's Community Support Centre
Kathleen Gregory, CEO of Foundation Housing
Elizabeth Lee, Company Secretary at Questus Limited
Ben Hawthorn, Executive Manager at Ruah Community Services
Catherine Spini, General Manager Community Services at Centrecare
Julia Shadlow-Bath, CEO of the Goldfields Indigenous Housing Organisation
Natalie Sangalli, General Manager Community Housing at Access Housing
Member Profile: Michelle Blakeley
| By Royceton Hardey.
I thought I had a case of mistaken identity on my hands when I typed the name Michelle Blakeley into Google. The Michelle Blakeley I had been told about was a local architect with a keen interest in homeless housing.
So, I was puzzled when several pages kept coming up about Perth’s early advertising industry. The surname Blakeley is unusual spelling, so I could only assume it was the same person.
One article, by advertising trade magazine Campaign Brief, prefaced the name with this: “The lack of female senior creatives has often come up as an industry discussion point over the past 15 years. But many followers of Campaign Brief today wouldn't realise that in the 1980s and early 1990s our industry did have a female creative director - and she was one of the best that Perth has seen.”
I was intrigued and couldn’t help but mention my discoveries upon meeting Michelle a couple of days later. Michelle Blakeley is now an award-winning architect but in 1984 she was the same Michelle Blakeley having a significant impact on Perth’s advertising scene.
Johnson Bowley and Blakeley (JB&B) grew an agency around a respectable list of clients. Metro Brick, IKEA, Beaurepaires and Bunnings all came knocking on the door.
“We were the first agency to actually use computers for artwork,” Michelle said as I took a place at her dining room table.
“We had a finished artist working on a computer which solely created Bunnings catalogues,” she said.
When JB&B renovated the Maltings Theatre in Stuart Street Northbridge for office space it was Michelle who liaised with architect, Philip McAllister to transform the old dairy depot. This ignited a career change from creating advertisements to creating buildings.
Predictably, her career in architecture is as successful as advertising.
At the Australian Institute of Architects’ 2018 WA Architecture Awards, Michelle received the Architecture Award in the sustainable architecture category. Her house in White Gum Valley, used stringent insulation and sealing to control temperature and reduce energy use. In fact, the energy rating it received was the highest of any award ever won.
I asked Michelle how she became interested in homeless housing.
“I receive a number of architecture journals on email and I read about a project in Victoria where State Government reserve land was being leased at a peppercorn rate as sites for small houses for homeless people,” Michelle said.
Launch Housing, a community organisation which provides housing and homelessness support services in Victoria, is building 57 transportable homes across nine sites around Melbourne’s inner west. If the land is needed back by the State Government, the dwellings can easily move elsewhere.
The project received significant funding from Flight Centre co-founder Geoff Harris to the tune of $4-million.
Michelle was impressed by those numbers. She equated it to a Perth example she knew of where it cost $25-million to house just 75 homeless people in a medium rise development.
“You can build so many small houses for a fraction of the cost of medium-high rise development which require more infrastructure such as lifts and fire separation, which add to the cost. It seemed such a logical, efficient and economical way to provide housing.” Michelle explained.
“On the same day that I read about the Melbourne project, I walked to a meeting in the City and I became very aware of the homeless people lying around the empty shopfronts. I thought that the Melbourne project was appropriate for Perth and wrote a proposal for our State Government.”
In her initial meeting with Peter Tinley AM MLA, Minister for Housing, the Minister encouraged Michelle to create a business plan around the proposal and to identify areas of land deemed suitable.
With the assistance of Kathleen Gregory, Chief Executive Officer at Foundation Housing, an array of meetings were scheduled with planners at the City of Perth, City of South Perth, City of Fremantle and the City of Cockburn.
“They identified for us land which they knew was Government owned, and that they thought would be suitable. The sites are 800 to 1,000sqm lots where we could built eight small houses. The sites are scattered around the community, so we don’t have large enclaves of housing which create a them-and-us scenario,” said Michelle.
“The beauty of the little houses is it avoids the institutionalised feeling of a medium high rise building.
“We are at the stage where we have had a quantity surveyor cost the project, we have pro bono engineers and other consultants lined up, and interest in funding construction by Rotary Clubs and the private corporations.
“We presented our Business Case to Peter Tinley who is now liaising with other government departments to organise suitable land for the houses.”
Michelle is optimistic that, when the Minister gives the green light, 100 houses could be built by domestic construction in the first 12 months.
“With low income affordable and homeless housing there has been so much talk about the research and strategies for the future and stakeholder consultation that I feel everyone is champing at the bit wanting some tangible solutions,” she said.
“This project alone will not solve the housing problem, but it is something which can run in parallel with other types of housing options, but because this concept can be implemented fairly quickly, it can lead the charge.”
Visibly, Michelle is excited about where the project is heading and the fact it can be done through a public-private partnership.
“The Government provides the land, the private sector is providing funding, hand in hand with the community housing providers managing the project and the ongoing support services required by the tenants. There is no hand out for government funding, we are asking the government for the land.”
Foundation Housing’s Kathleen Gregory sees the potential of providing smaller houses for the growing number of women over 55. There is an increasing number of seniors who don’t own their home and are struggling to pay their rent.
She told The Senior “Women might have separated from their partners, they have raised children and not been in secure paid employment and have little or no superannuation. They struggle to support themselves and secure and maintain private rentals.
“There is a predominance of three, or four-bedroom houses when what is needed for older single women is one, or two-bedroom units,” Kathleen said.
As I left Michelle’s house, I was amazed at what had been achieved so far. There are exciting times ahead, but I must admit I was nervous about how everything seemed to be hanging on a call from the Minister.
No doubt there will be more stories to come.
I am so impressed with the enthusiasm of the Shelter WA people to embrace the My Home homeless housing project and other ideas put to them for low income affordable housing. I feel that we are working together to provide tangible solutions and I am encouraged by their dedication to a vision of enabling housing as a basic right for everyone. - Michelle Blakeley, Architect.
In the first part of the project we are looking to chat with clinicians, caseworkers and housing support workers in primary health care, mental health care, and housing & homelessness services about what types of information is shared across services, and how.
Conducted by Timothy Kariotis a PhD candidate at The University of Melbourne, the findings from the interviews will contribute to health service research to design strategies to improve information sharing between sectors in the care of people with multiple needs, including mental illness.
Find out more by clicking here.
Shelter WA was pleased to be a part of a special Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC) workshop to discuss housing rental affordability in Western Australia.
Guest speaker, the Hon Peter Tinley AM MLA, Minister for Housing; Veterans Issues; Youth focused on the hot topic of Australia’s private rental market.
“Our property market has experienced a downswing in the past few years and, although overall affordability has improved, affordable housing is still out of reach for many Western Australians,” Mr Tinley said.
“Workers earning minimum wages cannot afford to rent, let alone buy a home. Average Perth rents have fallen, but only two per cent of available lettings are affordable to people on an aged or disability pension.
"Housing affordability is an issue that affects many of us and it requires all our efforts to resolve. A strong ongoing partnership with industry and the community sector are crucial if we are to deliver affordable housing.”
BCEC launched two reports at the workshop: 'The private rental sector in Australia - Public perceptions of quality & affordability'; and 'Housing security for WA's older renters'.
The private rental sector in Australia report contains an analysis of more than 3,000 Australian private renters.
Report author Associate Professor Steven Rowley, from the School of Economics, Finance and Property at Curtin University, said the Australian private rental sector appeared to be delivering quality and affordable housing for most renters, but was failing those on low incomes - particularly single parent households.
The report found some positives with dwelling quality generally perceived as good, the relationship between the landlord and tenant often excellent and strong feelings of home in the sector.
It also found that more than one in three single parents suffered discrimination when applying for a new rental property.
“Single parents often reported having to apply for multiple rental properties before being successful, and this same group was overwhelmingly the least likely to feel comfortable in their home once they found rental housing,” Associate Professor Rowley said.
The other research report examines data from the BCEC Housing Affordability Survey to explore strategies to make tenancy agreements more secure for older people.
Report author Associate Professor Helen Hodgson, from the Curtin Law School, said it was important for older Australians to have the security to be able to age in place, particularly if the alternative was premature admission into an aged care facility.
“Our research found many older renters have only been in their current home for up to three years with 41 per cent of older Australian renters forced to leave their previous rental property due to factors beyond their control,” Associate Professor Hodgson said.
“This insecurity is exacerbated by a lack of affordable, and suitable, housing options for older renters, coupled with an inadequacy of the aged pension and Commonwealth Rent Assistance payments.”
As part of a panel discussion after the launch of the reports, Shelter WA CEO Michelle Mackenzie spoke on the topic: ‘Is the WA private rental sector delivering quality and secure housing for all?’
With over a third of tenants paying more than 30% of their income on rent, for low income tenants this leads to long term, sustained housing stress. Limited access to affordable rental properties contributes to long term housing instability, poverty and homelessness,” said Michelle.
Continued disruption to rental housing has financial and broader well-being implications for renters. The Reports found that almost a third of renters were forced to leave their last property.
“This could impact on children’s schooling, employment access, and connectedness to family and community,” said Ms Mackenzie.
“A shift in thinking is needed. Rental properties are not just investment vehicles, they are people’s homes.”
“The WA Residential Tenancy Act is up for review in 2019, and this provides an opportunity for the WA community to address the issues raised in this report,” said Michelle.
Other recommendations in the Reports such as increasing rental subsidies and utilising Federal, State and local government policy levers to make institutional investment in affordable rental properties more attractive and increasing the quantity of affordable housing delivered by the community housing sector to assist those who may fall out of the private rental sector, should be explored,” said Michelle.
National Disability Services WA (NDS WA) and Shelter WA are delighted to collaborate to bring Joseph Connellan, one of Australia’s foremost experts in the delivery of housing for people with a disability.
In this session Joseph will provide an overview of the NDIS and its rollout as it is impacts housing demand and supply for NDIS participants. The Session will include an exploration of housing options for NDIS participants in the various housing segments (Specialist Disability Accommodation [SDA], High Needs Non SDA, Social Housing, Private Rental and Private Home Ownership). The Session will also include an opportunity to explore a methodology for analysing and comparing housing project for people with a disability as well as practical links to key NDIS documents.
About Joseph Connellan
With more than 30 years in service delivery and development within human services, including as an executive in three housing agencies and a background of policy of program development. Joseph has developed and delivered training for both NDS and Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA). He recently compiled the CHIA network submission to the KPMG SDA review. Joseph recently published “Two Hands: Delivering More and Better Housing for Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants.”
Date: Wednesday, 7 November 2018. Time: 9.30am - 1.00pm. Venue: NDS WA, 12 Lindsay Street, Northbridge.
Cost: $100 NDS WA and Shelter WA members $150 non-members.
Register: To register click here.
Long Table Vollies
Missed out on a Freo Long Table ticket but you'd still like to be part of the action? Never fear!
St. Patrick's Community Support Centre is seeking volunteer waitstaff, bar-staff, pack-up and pack-down to get in on the action and help us raise even more money for Freo's homeless than last year! We hear the volunteers have just about as much fun as the guests!
Drop Melanie a line here to stick your hand up for some festive cheer on Thursday, 29 November 2018. And remember to come and check out the new Christmas Markets on the night too!
Since 1972, St Patrick’s has worked to help those who are homeless or at risk of being homeless in Fremantle and the wider south west metropolitan region of Perth. Their goal is to serve the community through giving holistic, supportive and quality care to those most in need through services such as emergency relief, housing, meals, welfare, education, recreation and health. Helping people to return to independent living, a safe environment and a better quality of life are what they do.
Mental Health Week
The theme of WA Mental Health Week is all about community and the various settings we go to every day where we can support the wellbeing of others.
Shelter WA recognises that a secure home is widely recognised as providing a fundamental basis for building mental health.
“People with mental illness continue to be discharged from hospital, other health services, and institutions such as prisons with no arrangements for their housing, treatment and support in the community,” said Shelter WA CEO Ms Michelle Mackenzie.
“It is essential that mental health issues are a part of any discussion on homelessness and housing. People with a mental illness face several barriers in their attempts to achieve and maintain stable housing.
“National research to build a greater understanding of the connections between mental illness, unstable housing and homelessness must be a priority, with appropriate funding and ongoing support for this research,” Ms Mackenzie said.
In the report Homelessness in Western Australia: A review of the research and statistical evidence (Kaleveld, L. Seivwright, A. Box, E. Callis, Z. Flatau, P, 2018) the authors noted, “The link between mental health problems and homelessness is well established.
“The prevalence of trauma in the homeless population in itself indicates that rates of mental illness would also be high.”
But it’s not all doom and gloom.
“The correlation between homelessness and mental health issues were at staggering levels, but there were some excellent community services out there demonstrating success at tackling this issue,” said Western Australian Association for Mental Health CEO Ms Taryn Harvey.
“It’s encouraging to see more people are confident speaking up about mental health issues than ever before, but WA must be prepared to meet increasing demand with the right infrastructure in place to support these people.
“We know that home is where the health is, and people can avoid hospitals, expensive acute care and ending up at Emergency Departments if they have supports in place in their homes or close to their homes,” Ms Harvey said.
For more events and information, click here.
Inside Housing - October 5/2018
Please read the latest edition of our fortnightly newsletter, Inside Housing.
Inside this edition...
- The Prime Minister gets it wrong on Remote Housing.
- Shelter WA makes the pledge for Anti-Poverty.
- Our Member Profile looks at the excellent work being done at St. Patrick's Community Support Centre in Fremantle.
Plus heaps more including details of our METRONET Community Sector Forum and the Shelter WA AGM.
Click here to read our newsletter.
Shelter WA is an independent peak body, based in Perth Western Australia, that advocates for social and affordable housing and ending homelessness.
McCusker Centre for Citizenship
The McCusker Centre for Citizenship offers structured, quality internships with not for profit, community and government organisations locally. Taylah Jones, is one of our most recent McCusker Centre interns at Shelter WA.
Taylah is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Western Australia (UWA), undertaking a double major in Communications and Media, and Anthropology and Sociology.
Taylah was raised in a small regional town in the South West and was drawn to the strong community values and active community commitment displayed by both the McCusker Centre and Shelter WA.
Throughout her time at UWA, Taylah has also pursued some urban design studies and very much looks forward to combining her different studying passions into her internship.
Taylah is very eager to expand her knowledge on the housing and community sector and is very much looking forward to applying her knowledge of media and communications to her work here at Shelter WA.
The McCusker Centre for Citizenship at UWA was established in 2015, with a generous endowment from the McCusker Charitable Foundation, and seeks to foster caring, connected and socially engaged citizens who actively contribute to the wellbeing of their communities.
The Centre is the first of its kind in Australia and collaborates with students and the broader UWA community, not for profit organisations, government and business to make a difference in our communities locally, nationally and globally through structured, quality internships, events and exchange opportunities.
Internships are open to all UWA students - undergraduate and postgraduate - and student interns come from across all faculties. Students are matched based on their application and the internship opportunities available. Internships are normally for a minimum of 100 hours, and can be completed in a block period over the summer or winter break or over a semester, depending on what works for both the organisation and student.
Member Profile: St. Patrick's Community Support Centre
| By Royceton Hardey.
As I found myself in the dining room at St Patrick’s Community Support Centre there was a phrase which suddenly came back to me.
Ahead of my visit I had done some website research and a story about the Centre’s dining room stated that the meals service is pivotal to everything St Patrick’s does.
So, I wasn’t surprised when it was the first place Michael Piu, the Chief Executive Officer of St Patrick’s wanted to show me, and it didn’t take him long to elaborate on the philosophy.
“Food is important, there is the aspect of providing nutritious meals of course, but just as important is the opportunity of engagement with people,” Michael said.
“For a variety of reasons, people who have experienced homelessness can be reluctant to engage. They may well have been through significant trauma, and indeed mental health issues might be in play, and circumstances such as these can create a lack of trust. The Day Centre is a non-judgmental place and it allows people to get to know the staff and build trust.”
I had come after lunch, so the noise of dishwashers and cutlery clanging was emanating from the side kitchen. The Centre provides a free breakfast and a five-dollar lunch comprised of a three-course cooked meal.
The Centre’s many other services are cleverly built around the large dining room space which can be likened to the ‘GO’ square on a Monopoly board. When trust is established the client is encouraged to utilise many other services available under the one roof.
“You need to grab them while they are here and make the services flexible,” explains Michael. “If you send people away to an appointment perhaps on the other side of town, they might not remember the detail, or the travel could be a deterrent.
“We find what works best is to create a one stop shop.”
The combination of partnerships that provide the various services is incredible. There are too many to list, but Michael gives me an idea of the major ones who provide health services.
“Black Swan Health bring doctors on site; a registered nurse is here five days a week in a partnership with Silver Chain, a number of universities bring their final year allied health students here and there are an extensive number of individual practitioners who volunteer their time,” Michael said.
As we move throughout the building I see several standard consultation rooms that house a range of clinical services. Services include remedial massage, chiropractic, physiotherapy, counselling, and podiatry. There’s even hairdressing – a luxury many St. Pat’s clients struggle to afford.
In a bigger room several rows of glasses are hanging from the wall.
“This is the optometry room,” Michael explains.
“The Optometry Association organised for all of this to be donated from a supplier locally, they also organise a roster of independent professionals to come in and provide eye health checks and services.”
The glasses are also donated and are comprised of out of stock or last season type brands. Some brands are well known and stylish. A large ophthalmology machine takes up one side of the room.
I’m very impressed, but Michael hints there is something better to come. Like a tour operator who leaves the best for last, I’m led through a simple looking door into something I had not expected.
I am staring not only at a fully furnished dentist’s chair, but an entire dental suite surrounding it. Bright lights illuminate the space and I see an X-Ray arm hanging from the ceiling.
Michael Piu, CEO, St Patrick’s Community Support Centre.
Suction cups, dentist tools, and denture moulds are neatly stacked, and a sterile area adjoins the main room. It is difficult to believe I am still in the same building.
The room was bigger than the one my own dentist has, and it was better equipped.
“We are very proud of this,” Michael says with his smile notably wider.
“When I first entered this sector, I kept hearing about the problems associated with getting dental support for our client group. And I kept chipping away at people, trying to tell them that I thought this is something which could be done.
“It took years, but we finally got a business plan up and running and we went from there. A few philanthropic funders, most notably Ian Potter Foundation, Lotterywest and Sisters of St John of God along with discounts from dentist equipment providers helped us achieve this, but most importantly, the dental profession really got behind us. A Commonwealth Grant secured a refit to accommodate our Orthopantomogram (OPG) machine which provides a panoramic x-ray of the lower face, which displays all the teeth of the upper and lower jaw, as well as a separate sterile room to meet best practice guidelines.
It was a remarkable room and by this stage I thought I had seen everything the building had to offer. But I had not been up the stairs yet and on the second level Michael points out to me a high-rise of flats which contain a mix of crisis accommodation and transitional housing.
“One floor is dedicated to crisis accommodation for males, and is one of the few housing offerings for which we are funded to provide case management support,” Michael said. “So, the client is connected to the right services as soon as they come off the street.”
In total, St Patrick’s has stock of 134 rooms spread out from Willagee to Rockingham. The latest venture, if planning approval is given, will add another 31 rooms of accommodation in the Shoalwater area.
In 1972 when St Patrick’s was first established, the dominant need was to support men but now with the demographics of homelessness shifting, there are two sites which provide women’s accommodation. There’s also accommodation and support services for families and youth in the greater Fremantle area, as well as a specialist housing support service for people with chronic mental health challenges.
Most accommodation is charged by St Patrick’s at a maximum of 25 percent of income of the occupant, equating to a standard Centrelink benefit. All other costs are covered by St Patrick’s.
As we chat more generally about issues regarding homelessness support Michael believes prevention is the key to the overall issue.
“We are not even scratching the surface when it comes to prevention,” Michael explains. “One project we host here through our Imagined Futures collective impact group is called the Imagined Futures Youth Initiative.
“Working in schools in Melville, Cockburn and Fremantle, it is about engaging disengaged kids, and trying to keep them in school throughout the whole trajectory. Then it looks at their family situation, so addressing how we can capacity build families so children stay in school, grow and develop and then become independent members of the community.
“We know if a child does not complete school, research shows it costs the public purse a couple of hundred thousand dollars over a lifetime and perpetuates the cycle of disadvantage.
“We need to break this as early as possible.”
Back in the main building, with its open, flexible focus, it can be hard to track the numbers of people receiving support. Michael estimates 200 to 250 people will come in each day to use the services or have a meal. Other popular services include financial counselling and emergency relief. St. Pat’s also has two specialist outreach services - Street to Home links rough sleepers with support and accommodation, while Crossroads works with people in the Fremantle, Maylands and CBD who have alcohol or drug issues and are at risk of homelessness.
With so many services available it’s clear that St Patrick’s has successfully become a true community connector, where partnerships are built, support is given and lives are remade.
“We’re here to make accessing support as simple as possible,” says Michael. “In a nutshell, we give people the tools they need to effect lasting and meaningful change in their lives.”
Homelessness is solvable but it requires the sector to work collaboratively and develop evidence-based approaches; as well as to build understanding in the broader community around the causes of homelessness, and support for the solutions. SHELTER WA plays a key role in this important work. - Michael Piu, CEO, St Patrick’s Community Support Centre.