The Heads of Churches WA, including Uniting Church WA Moderator Rev Steve Francis, have written to Hon Simone McGurk MLA thanking the Government for their commitments to reduce homelessness, and requesting more measures.
As well as Rev Steve Francis, the Heads of Churches WA includes leaders from some of the larger Christian denominations in WA, such as The Most Reverend Kay Goldsworthy AO, Archbishop of Perth and Metropolitan of the Province of WA; Brad Potter (Major), Divisional Commander, WA Division, The Salvation Army Australia Territory; The Most Reverend Donald Sproxton, Auxiliary Bishop in the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth in WA; and David Tehr, Clerk, WA Regional Meeting, The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).
The letter asks for three measures: emergency resourcing to ensure the health and welfare of those experiencing homelessness before and during COVID-19, starting with the housing of all rough-sleepers; increased investment in services and housing beyond September 2020 (post-Government welfare payments); and a co-ordinated communication strategy between the Government and Housing and Homelessness Sector.
“The care agencies of the churches of Western Australia are advising us that an emerging welfare crisis is looming. We recognise the efforts made to reduce the COVID-19 risks and related health impacts on the sector, however we also know that many services are already stretched and we are eager to prevent a secondary health and social crisis,” the letter states.
“We welcome the proactive establishment of the Homelessness Taskforce “to raise the issues and risks for people experiencing homelessness as a result of COVID-19 and to help develop strategic responses and solutions”. We hope that this can be a model for ongoing collaboration and communication between the sector and the Government and ask that this taskforce be embedded across government to include other streams such as mental health and health to maintain a responsive and coordinated approach into the future.
“Through our faith in Christ, who calls us to love our neighbour and tend to the needs of the poor and vulnerable, we are deeply concerned about the welfare of people experiencing homelessness. The risks of COVID-19 for this very vulnerable section of the community weigh upon us heavily as we head into winter.
“As the WA economy builds recovery after the impacts of COVID-19 we ask that the WA Government prioritises investment in immediately housing rough sleepers and providing more homelessness and housing support services to compliment the social housing commitments made by your Government.
“We look forward to working effectively with the WA Government to help tackle this issue of homelessness within our community.”
Download the full letter here.