• Sleeping bags spread out across the steps of WA Parliament House to honour 56 people who died whilst experiencing homelessness in 2020. (NITV News.)Source: NITV News.
The vigil laid 56 sleeping bags on the steps of WA's parliament house, representing the lives lost on the state's streets last year.
Douglas Smith

4 Aug 2021 - 6:15 PM  UPDATED 4 Aug 2021 - 6:22 PM

A vigil held on the steps of Western Australia’s parliament house on Tuesday night laid out 56 sleeping bags to represent the people who died living on the streets of Perth last year. 

The vigil, coinciding with Homelessness Week, also honoured the recent death of 38-year-old Noongar woman.

Mother-of-six Alana Garlett died in June after she was found unwell in front of a church in Perth’s CBD. 

Speaking to NITV News at the vigil, her sister Michelle said Ms Garlett had been sleeping rough for a number of years before her death. 

“She was kicked out on the streets 8-9 years ago and from then onwards, she just knew the streets so well.

"All of a sudden she ends up passing on the streets through the cold and the homelessness,” said Michelle. 

“It’s getting ridiculous... the government can do things about it.

“(We don’t want) to be like America and leave the homeless on the street, and let them die known as John Doe or Jane Doe…

"House them, give them a chance because a lot of people do change their ways.”

On any given night in Western Australia, it’s estimated 9,000 people experience homelessness, with 600 people regularly sleeping rough in the Perth metro area.

In 2018, the WA Alliance to End Homelessness announced a 10-year strategy to end homelessness in the state.

Just last year the state government announced their own decade-long plan to combat the problem.

However, a report released on Tuesday showed the number of homeless people in the state was on the rise. 

Author and researcher of the report, Professor Paul Flatau from the University of Western Australia told NITV News that it was particularly concerning for Indigenous people.

“The numbers aren’t moving as we would like them to move,” said Professor Flatau.

“The numbers of homelessness in Western Australia are still staying at high levels, there’s no question about that. 

“The proportion that are Aboriginal actually has increased steadily over time and that’s a really serious concern.”

WA Greens MLC, Brad Pettitt, told NITV News that the state government needed to invest an “unprecedented” amount of money at next month's state budget to work towards ending homelessness.

“It’s about proper new budget measures that you can actually see invested in new housing, proper wrap-around services targetd for vulnerable people who are sleeping rough,” said Mr Pettitt.

“[But] the first step for the McGowan Government is they need to recognise that there is a crisis.  

“There’s a bit of a sense within the government actually that, there isn’t a crisis and what we’re doing is fine and we can kinda continue on with business as usual.

“There’s gotta be a recognition, that 56 people dying on our streets...more than one a week, is entirely unacceptable..”

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