Perth inner-city block will be transformed into an apartment tower for rough sleepers as part of a multi-million dollar bid by the state government to address homelessness in the CBD.
Perth Common Ground, the first facility of its kind in Western Australia, will feature 70 dwellings with wraparound health and support services on site and a cafe or similar offering on the ground floor.
It is anticipated about half of the facility’s apartments will be offered to people experiencing homelessness with the remaining to be added to the state’s social housing offering.
Community Services Minister Simone McGurk said the site, on the corner of Wellington and Hill streets in East Perth, had been chosen for its proximity to Royal Perth Hospital, public transport stops, and the CBD.
It will be built across the road from Wellington Square, which is currently under development. The block where the tower will be built is owned by the Department of Communities and has been empty for more than a decade.
Ms McGurk said the facility would save the state government thousands of dollars in health and policing costs, and take pressure off hospital emergency departments.
“All the evidence tells us that combining safe and stable accommodation with support services
is the key to breaking the cycle of homelessness,” she said.
“Studies have found that people who enter the Common Ground program have less interaction
with police and the justice system and reduce pressure on hospital emergency departments.
“It’s been a very successful model.”
While the government is yet to engage an architect to finalise the design of the facility, it will mirror similar apartments in Brisbane and Canberra, which feature open corridors, landscaped outdoor spaces and a rooftop garden.
Construction is expected to begin during the next financial year.
Member for Perth John Carey said “temporary night shelters” would be set up to bridge the gap in the meantime.
The project is part of a $72 million cash boost over five years to address homelessness in Perth, announced as part of the state government’s 10-year homelessness strategy which was released last December.
Half of the funding will pay for two Common Ground apartment complexes, with the government currently in negotiations over the best location for the second facility.
The other half will go towards Housing First initiatives, including rental subsidies, across WA.
This is on top of a $150 million investment for 300 new social housing properties announced last year, plus $6 million for 70 renovations, plus $19 million for Keystart.
It also comes in addition to the state government’s existing $90 million homelessness spend.
University of Western Australia Centre for Social Impact director Paul Flatau, who worked with the government to draft the 10-year strategy, said community living facilities were the “extra piece of the puzzle” around meeting the needs of homeless people in Australia.
“We haven’t seen a state government focus on homelessness for quite some time and I think this is a really important initiative in the current context,” he said.
“We know people follow different journeys in terms of homelessness; some will exit relatively easily, some will want housing in the suburbs but others need that community living and we haven’t had that in Western Australia so far. The Common Ground model provides that opportunity.”