Homeless shelter positive step

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times
Bunbury City Council will construct the “street-sleeper” shelter in the CBD.
Camera IconBunbury City Council will construct the “street-sleeper” shelter in the CBD. Credit: South Western Times

The whole community needs to commit to tackling homelessness across the city, according to Bunbury MLA Don Punch.

It comes as Mr Punch commended Bunbury City Council’s decision last week to construct a homeless shelter in the CBD.

The “street-sleeper shelter” will be located at the Rivers store carpark, taking up two bays at a cost to the council of $25,000 and will be built this financial year.

While community feedback has included questions over how the shelter would help the root cause of the problem, Mr Punch said the concept was a positive step.

“I applaud the Bunbury City Council for engaging with the homeless community and for working to provide initiatives that address concerns raised by that community,” Mr Punch said.

“The reality is this is not a shelter as most people would understand that term, it is a space that will afford rough sleepers some protection from the elements but it is a step in the right direction.

“It demonstrates we are a compassionate community with a desire to assist some of our most vulnerable members.”

Mayor Gary Brennan said the bigger issue of homelessness was “well beyond” the council and the shelter was the “very least” it could do.

“We’ve got people who sleep on the streets ... they sleep wherever they can,” Mr Brennan said.

“It’s not ideal, but at least this way we’ve engaged with some of those people, they’ve told us that they’d like a shelter and they’d like it built in the central business area.

“We’re doing what we can to assist ... we want them to be in a shelter where they know they’ve got some degree of comfort while still acknowledging their mental health issues.”

Mr Punch said there was no doubt an increase in crisis accommodation was needed in Bunbury and a group crisis accommodation accompanied by support services had merit.

“One of the difficulties is where such a facility could be built,” he said. “When people discover such a service is likely to be located close to them, we often see community opposition to the initiative.

“We, as a whole community, need to be committed to developing solutions that support vulnerable people in community settings.”

Bunbury Soup Van president Denise Ladhams said it was hoped the core issues of homelessness would be addressed “one day” but the shelter was a step forward.

“I think anything that brings attention to what is going on in Bunbury is fantastic,” Mrs Ladhams said.

“I do hope we can one day address the core issues – more mental health beds, drug and alcohol beds and start fixing the issues early on rather at the tail end, but anything is a step forward.”

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