Homelessness in WA is rising.

WA's booming economic times have created a new wave of homelessness because many people coming to WA in search of jobs have missed out, according to a Perth GP.

Dr Andrew Davies, director of medical services at Mobile GP, says the homeless were once largely invisible in Perth but rising numbers of people with acute, short-term housing problems meant more were having to live on the streets or seek a bed at a shelter.

Services were seeing more families.

"With all the economic prosperity we've enjoyed, we might have expected homelessness would become less of a problem but it's actually become more of a problem," Dr Davies said.

"That's largely because there have been so many people moving to WA, particularly Perth, but there's not adequate public housing or other accommodation to support them.

"People have heard it's a great place for jobs, but it has not worked out for them and some end up homeless."

Dr Davies said the mobile GP service provided 12,000 consultations for disadvantaged people last year, and the number was rising about 3000 a year.

Most were aged 20 to 45, and about two-thirds were men.

A recent registry of Perth's homeless, carried out over three nights in inner-city Perth in May, found that a quarter were aged under 25, with the youngest aged 15 and the oldest aged 77. Aboriginal people made up more than one-third of the 168 people interviewed.

Most people were "sleeping rough" in squats, streets or parks, and the young homeless were more likely to beg.

Violence was often present, with almost half those surveyed reporting being regularly robbed and one-third saying they had threatened or tried to harm themselves or someone else in the past year.

Dr Jim O'Connell, who heads the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, warned in Perth this week that the number of homeless families in the US had surged.

A decade ago, 20 per cent of clients were families but they now made up half the numbers. There were so many homeless women and children they had to be housed in budget motels.


The West Australian

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