More homeless sleeping rough than in crisis accommodation first survey reveals
The groundbreaking research carried out this week also concluded Perth’s homeless were likely to remain that way for nearly nine years, compared to an average of 8.3 years across other Australian capital cities.
Twenty eight per cent of those surveyed in Perth had been homeless for more than 10 years.
About 60 per cent of homeless people were found to have at least one mortality risk factor making them vulnerable. Those included 22 people with frostbite, four with HIV Aids and 36 with kidney or liver problems.
A further 57 per cent suffered from a mental illness.
A significant 85 per cent reported they abused drugs, including 48 per cent who injected their substance of choice, while almost one-third said they had drunk alcohol every day for the past 30 days.
The average age of the 158 homeless people surveyed was 37, compared to the national average of 41.
Only 8 per cent for aged over 55, with the oldest respondent aged 73.
Comparatively, 23 per cent were less than 25 years old, including at least one 13-year-old.
About 37 per cent were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
Eighty one of the survey respondents had been admitted to hospital in the past year for a total of 260 admissions.
Researchers estimated the bill to taxpayers was $1.48 million, based on the average cost of a hospital admission.
An additional 278 presentations to hospital emergency departments in the past three months alone totalled a further $156,000.
Questions relating to their backgrounds revealed most had been in trouble with the law – 75 per cent had been in a prison cell and 61 per cent were jailed – and about one-third grew up in a child institution, foster care or under some other form of state child protection.
The danger of living rough was highlighted by statistics showing more than half had been assaulted since becoming homeless and one-third suffered a brain injury.
The research, carried out by Ruah Community Services and partly funded by the state government, was conducted as part of an Australian first national survey to collect data in each major capital city.
Volunteers conducted interviews during the early hours of the morning several days this week and will collate the information to create a ‘vulnerability index’ showing their housing and health history.
Minister for Community Services Robyn McSweeney said the data would help identify needs and prioritise referrals to specialist services.
“This survey [reveals] information which will provide a clearer picture of the challenges facing our city’s most vulnerable people,” she said.
“The answers from those sleeping rough on our streets gathered throughout this week will provide valuable insights into the needs of people who are experiencing homelessness.
“Homelessness is a serious community issue and Registry Week provides an opportunity for us to understand the challenges facing people who are experiencing homeless and to help support services, particularly in the areas of health and housing, plan for the future.”
But opposition community services spokeswoman Sue Ellery said the survey revealed a lack of funding to support homeless people.
“It is a shocking indictment on such a prosperous economy as WAs, that 88% of homeless people cannot get crisis accommodation,” Ms Ellery said.
“That’s because the Barnett Government has not funded a single new refuge bed in the last four years.
“This government is making bad decisions on its spending priorities and services are not able to keep up with demand. Safe shelter is a basic human right and the key to fixing the complex issues this survey identified.
“Most Western Australians will be shocked to hear WA is not doing better at this.”