The extent of Busselton’s homelessness problem has come to light ahead of Homeless Persons’ Week.
The Community Housing Coalition of WA is raising awareness of homelessness in communities through a week of activities from Monday.
Paradise Motel owner Kevin Bell said he regularly accommodated low income people referred by churches, police, refuges, charities and government agencies.
Many were homeless; others simply couldn’t afford accommodation elsewhere in Busselton.
“The churches send homeless people here and pay for their rooms, ” he said. “They wouldn’t have anywhere else to go if we didn’t take them.”
Motel manager Pauline Pegg said she often helped guests by giving them a cheap room, a toothbrush and even a sandwich from time to time.
But after 14 years of helping Busselton’s homeless Mr Bell has sold the business and will move out on August 11.
“(Homelessness) is a huge problem and it’s only going to get bigger and bigger, especially with the changes coming to the dole, ” he said. “We’re lucky to have so many charities which help the homeless in Busselton, but it could better organised.
“We need a community facility, a one stop shop where they can be clothed, fed and helped to find a job.”
St Mary’s Anglican Church is one of several organisations in Busselton which does what it can to help homeless people.
With limited proceeds from its op shop, the church pays for crisis accommodation at Paradise Motel, caravan parks and charity housing when there is no other option.
Parish administrator and church warden John Morris said homelessness was a major concern in Busselton.
“We see them regularly in our church grounds, behind the old tourist bureau…anywhere they can find a bit of shelter, ” he said.
“If you’re going to be homeless and out of work where else would you want to be? You might as well be in a good place like Busselton.”
Mr Morris said a community facility to help homeless people was a good idea, but it would be filled “within hours”.
City of Busselton community and commercial services director Naomi Searle said trying to accurately gauge the number of homeless people was one of the biggest challenges.
Ms Searle said groups like Cliff’s Kitchen and the street chaplains were starting to gather information to better understand the issue.
She said the City did not have a homelessness policy, but it had contributed to the development of the South West Regional Homeless Plan co-ordinated by Accord West and participated in workshops looking at causes of homelessness and ways to raise public awareness and support.
A one stop shop to help homeless people in Busselton may be “pursued in the future”, Ms Searle said, but at this stage a range of government agencies and charitable organisations offer these services.
Busselton police Sergeant Todd Carrington said officers came in contact with homeless people frequently. “We see that side of Busselton. It’s sad that homeless people come to our attention, ” he said.
“It’s not an offence to be homeless, but we do arrest them if they are behaving disorderly in public.”
If you are experiencing homelessness, call the Department of Child Protection and Family Support’s Crisis Care on 1800 199 008