Refugees face eviction amid housing crisis
Refugee Bayana Kadir Bashir and his family. Picture: Simon Santi/The West Australian

The house is cramped and filled with the scent of exotic spices.

The youngest of Bayana Kadir Bashir's children, a tiny two-year-old girl, stands shyly on the edge of a woven rug covering the floor of the main living area.

His other six children huddle wide-eyed in the doorway behind her.

Mr Bashir, 42, wrings his hands anxiously. His family, uprooted by bloody war, have survived violence and disease. Now, the Ethiopian-born father of seven said yesterday, they lived under a cloud of fear and uncertainty again.

Mr Bashir and his family live in the Perth suburb of Girrawheen.

They are the face of a hidden crisis that non-government authorities and advocates say is gripping the refugee community in WA. The family of nine are at risk of becoming homeless, and they are not alone.

According to the Housing Crisis Committee for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities, an organisation comprising almost 30 government and community agencies, the Bashirs are one of a growing number of refugee families in Perth who are either homeless or on the brink of becoming so.

In a recent report, HCCCALD and Shelter WA - the peak body for affordable housing in WA - warned that vulnerable segments of the community including refugees, Aboriginals and pensioners are facing a housing crisis.

Mr Bashir, who was settled in WA in 2009, kept his family alive and safe from the horrors that plagued the refugee camp in Kenya where they waited in line for 19 years for their chance to come to Australia. He thought their troubles were behind them.

Mr Bashir is now worried about what will happen to his children if they become homeless. "This is a safe place, it saved our lives," he said. "We don't have any problem here; just accommodation."

Mr Bashir, who is relying on Centrelink support while he learns English, pays $330 a week rent. He said the owner of the property asked him to vacate because they wanted to sell.

His family, like more than 20,000 people in WA, are on the public housing waiting list. He has applied for 25 privately listed rental properties.

Multicultural liaison worker Mandy Whitton, from the Koondoola Integrated Services Centre, says Mr Bashir has an impeccable rental record. But all his applications have been rejected.

A court-appointed bailiff was expected to kick his family out this week, Mr Bashir said.

"We packed already," Mr Bashir said. "I am worried right now. We don't know where to go."

The HCCCALD report found that the low vacancy rate in the WA private rental sector, an inadequate amount of public housing, lack of affordability and not enough large houses were the key factors pushing refugee families over the edge.

HCCCALD executive committee member Sue Chadwick said providers were receiving calls "every single day" from families who were homeless or on the verge of becoming so.

Burmese-born Hrang Uk, his pregnant wife and their five-year-old daughter, were resettled in Australia last month through the United Nations after years of eking out an existence in a Malaysian refugee ghetto.

The family share a bed in a single room in a relative's three-bedroom unit, a tidy dwelling they live in with another two adults and their children.

Mr Uk said it was better than anything they had known before, but with the property under offer and the long wait for public housing, all the occupants were worried about where they would live.

Ms Chadwick said their situation, called secondary homelessness, was increasingly common.

_The West Australian _is aware of one three-bedroom property that is home to 15 people from two families.

Ms Chadwick and Ms Whitton said they were aware of refugee families living in cars.

Housing Minister Terry Redman acknowledged there was "stress right across the housing sector".

Mr Bashir still has faith the Government, or a landlord, will rent him a home he can afford. "I would say to that person 'you have saved us'. I would say that 'you are our closest friend, a brother, a sister, our family'," he said.

The West Australian

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