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Homeless youth shock prompts action

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times

Worrying numbers of homeless children are reaching out for help in Bunbury, prompting welfare services and the State Government to take action.

Accordwest chief executive officer Neil Hamilton revealed the organisation could accommodate only 31 of the 163 young people who sought help in the region during the 2016-17 financial year.

The comment was made during a presentation to Bunbury City Council last week when Mr Hamilton was pushing for development approval for stage two of Accordwest’s Bunbury Youth Accommodation Project at Forrest Avenue.

The $3 million project which will be completely funded by the organisation will provide housing options for homeless youths “who have no other alternative to solve their homelessness,” according to Mr Hamilton.

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“Young people end up homeless for a variety of reasons, sometimes it’s family conflict between the person and the parents, we also see it as domestic violence,” Mr Hamilton said.

“But what we know and what we know the research supports is if you get an early intervention you’re able to get a better outcome.

“If you don’t intervene early then it becomes an intractable problem and we’ve all seen many older adults sleeping homeless in the city.”

Bunbury Soup Van has been operating in the city since April and committee president Denise Ladhams said the not-for-profit group was seeing a concerning number of children on the streets.

“In May and June we helped 176 people – 50 were children,” Mrs Ladhams said.

“Some of those 50 were with family, but then some came out by themselves.”

Mrs Ladhams said many issues resulted in homelessness.

“Mental health needs to be looked at, we need to look at family support, conflict resolution, drug and alcohol counselling for both parents and children,” Mrs Ladhams said.

“I think it comes down to coming up with a solution to keep families together.”

One solution could be the Tiny Houses project under the State Government, according to Bunbury MLA Don Punch.

Mr Punch said homelessness for people of all ages was a “pressing” issue in Bunbury.

“I am well acquainted with the issue and am working hard with service organisations to identify ways to better address homelessness in Bunbury,” Mr Punch said.

One of the McGowan Government’s Local Projects, Local Jobs commitments was $180,000 for the Tiny Houses Pilot Project.

“I have convened a community committee to help guide the development of this project which will offer innovative ways of addressing homelessness,” Mr Punch said.

“Combating homelessness requires a whole of government response from housing to wrap-around support services to training opportunities.”

“This is the approach we are taking with the Tiny Houses Project and I hope it will set a precedent that helps our community provide options to protect and assist some of our most vulnerable people.”

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