Homelessness in the Wheatbelt has now passed crisis point, according to regional emergency housing providers.
- Crisis housing providers in the Wheatbelt say homelessness has reached record levels
- Some of those stuck on the streets have well-paying jobs
- The number of people waiting for social housing has jumped 12% compared to last year
Northam Share and Care, a non-profit organization providing crisis housing, said even those with well-paying jobs were being left behind due to the lack of available housing.
Monique (pseudonym), a 29-year-old mother of two, moved to the Avon area last year to escape domestic abuse.
She now lives in a trailer and shares a bed with her daughters who are both under 10.
“You can hear mice and rats running around. It’s not something where you can lock your doors and feel safe,” she said.
“We have a small camp shower and I bought an expensive chemical toilet which I empty at the chemical dump.
Monique has a full-time job as a support worker and can afford to pay nearly double the average rent in the area.
But there is simply nothing available.
“I could pay $500 a week if I had to. I just can’t find a place,” she said.
“I’m always up against 30 people and there are three houses a month if you’re lucky.
“I have a good rent record, there are just too many people applying.”
“They just don’t get away with it”
Carol Jones-Lummis, CEO of Northam Share and Care, believes the situation has never been more dire.
“Never. Not in 22 years,” she said.
Founded in 1975, the organization provides refuge for men and women seeking housing.
Beds are meant to be short term, but some guests have been forced to stay longer than a year.
“While she and her seven children are in this five-bedroom house, there’s no room for these single men, so we’ve had to send a lot of people out of town.
“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It confuses me.
“They just don’t get away with it.”
No quick fix
The lack of housing supply is being felt across the country, with the issue front and center during the National Assembly of Local Governments this week.
Wheatbelt County presidents who attended the event said addressing homelessness was a top priority, but conditions continue to worsen.
Department of Housing figures show 19,000 people are on the public housing waiting list statewide, a 12% increase from last year.
Of these, 364 are in the Wheatbelt, an increase of 8%.
Ms Jones-Lummis thinks her region is too often overlooked, but does not think the blame lies entirely with the WA government.
“COVID has made things much worse, but also since we’ve seen Airbnb become so popular… what would normally be a rental stock is now pushed aside because there’s more money to be made.”
One foot in front of the other
For Monique, it is the love of her children that keeps her going as she faces a prolonged wait for a home.
“I don’t know how I made it this long. It seems a bit spoiled on my part, but it’s depressing.
“I just have to keep looking forward.”