A new $15.8 million indigenous short-stay facility to be opened in Derby by 2014 will alleviate overcrowding and reduce the number of visitors forced to sleep rough, Shire of Derby-West Kimberley president Elsia Archer has said.
The funding was originally earmarked for a Broome hostel, but was reallocated to Derby after protracted wrangling between former Housing Minister Troy Buswell and its Shire about a suitable site failed to reach a resolution.
Housing Minister Terry Redman said the hostel would cost $11.75 million to build and would receive operational funding of about $1.4 million a year over four years, with visitors paying a fee to stay.
Mr Redman said modelling had shown up to 450 transient people visited Derby during the wet season – triple the number of visitors during the dry – so the need for the hostel was acute.
“Given that we’ve now opened the West Kimberley prison, the level of visitation is going to increase – this is going to help,” he said.
A manager is yet to be selected, but is highly likely to be a non-government organisation contracted to the Department of Child Protection.
Visitors will be subject to strict rules, including no consumption of drugs and alcohol. They will have access to other support services as appropriate.
Ms Archer said finer details about the hostel’s construction were yet to be worked out but camping facilities would not be provided.
With 54 beds, it could accommodate short-stay visitors for up to three months – most of whom would have otherwise ended up sleeping rough or in over-crowded houses.
Ms Archer said councillors had voted almost unanimously that the hostel should be built in a central location on Ashley Street in Derby.
“I think it’s fantastic – the council thinks it’s fantastic,” she said.
“We’ve been waiting for the Government to sort itself out – now that this has happened, we can get on with the finer details.”
The hostel, funded by Royalties for Regions, is the second indigenous short-stay facility to be opened in WA, a similar hostel in Kalgoorlie-Boulder, operated by the Red Cross, was opened in August.
Mr Redman said the State Government was unlikely to fund any more facilities until those operating models had been examined.
“There is still a significant need in Broome – we can’t deny that need,” he said. “However, we couldn’t reach resolution with the local government to support this facility in Broome so the previous Minister made the decision to move it to Derby.”