St. Patrick’s Community Support Centre

Tuesday 27th October 2015
Media Release
For immediate release

St. Patrick’s Community Support Centre welcomes the establishment of spare change collection points around Fremantle that would help fund organizations that tackle homelessness. But CEO Steve McDermott says while the new initiative has merit, St. Pat’s is seeking greater clarity around what the new policy means for the homeless.

“At St. Pat’s we always promote a policy of donating funds to an organization that can address the root causes of homelessness in a sustainable way, ” says Mr. McDermott. “But while we feel this is an appropriate measure to curb aggressive or opportunistic begging, St. Pat’s is concerned about the potential impact on those in genuine need if a universal “no tolerance” approach was taken.”

“Our experience on the ground is that the level of extreme need is growing,” says Mr. McDermott. “There is a risk that by adopting a punitive or hard-line approach with such individuals, we may further entrench disadvantage, rather than alleviating it.”

“Fremantle has a growing number of people who literally have nowhere to live but on the streets. Many of these people have suffered genuine hardship in their lives – hardships that many of us can’t even imagine,” says Mr. McDermott. These are people who are trying to get by, to survive, and have no place to do it but on the streets. For this reason, we would encourage a compassionate approach – whether it be to begging, public drinking or otherwise.”

“We need to remember that many of the people we see on the streets genuinely have nowhere else to go. Is it right to punish someone for trying to raise funds for a meal, or for quietly having a drink in a park because they do not have a home? These are difficult questions which require a detailed, whole-of-community response, rather than blanket bans on particular behaviours.”

“We’re very pleased to see the City address the issues of violence on the streets,” says Mr. McDermott. “Our clients are amongst those who have felt unsafe or been attacked on the streets of Fremantle. In the last two years two of our clients have been killed on Freo’s streets while several others have suffered injuries as a result of this anti-social behaviour. Sowe certainly welcome the increased police presence but again, we’d like to see more detail on how this will be implemented.”

As one of the leading welfare agencies in the Fremantle area, St. Pat’s also welcomes the City of Fremantle’s commitment to strengthened partnerships with organizations tackling homelessness. “Homelessness is a whole-of-community issue that requires a whole-of-community response,” says Mr. McDermott. “While we were not involved in the creation of this new policy, we would welcome the opportunity to be engaged in the future. St. Pat’s is a leading collaborator with a wide range of community partners and government agencies – our South West Metropolitan Partnership Forum program has led to some really positive outcomes for communities in crisis. It will be fantastic to have the City of Fremantle work with us and other agencies as we develop sustainable solutions to these issues.”

Varnya Bromilow
Communications Coordinator
Mobile: 0434-692-307
Email: vbromilow@stpats.com.au

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