A group of Aboriginal rough sleepers say they would take the opportunity to be repatriated back to their Country in Western Australia’s regional areas if given the chance, after living on the streets of Perth during the state’s first wave of the coronavirus.
In April, NITV News aired footage of WA police and Perth city officials destroying a makeshift camp of Aboriginal people sleeping rough, threatening to lock them up if they didn’t comply with move on notices.
One of the women, Denis Rogers, told NITV News she would go back to her home community of Looma in the Kimberley region if she was given the opportunity.
“My kids are there… [I’m missing out] on fishing, camping, going out bush,” Ms Rogers said.
“We had to move…it’s very very cold, the wind blowing that why we put the block up,” she said.
Ms Rogers said she doesn’t know where the other people from the camp went after being dispersed as they had all been separated over the past few weeks. She said the police have still been issuing move on notices to Aboriginal rough sleepers in Perth.
“We told them [the police] that we got nowhere to stay, please give us a home,” she said.
Activist Herbert Bropho, who was present when the camp was dispersed in April has continued his support for Perth’s homeless, regularly coming into the city to check-in on their welfare.
“The last few weeks, I’ve seen a lot of these mob struggling to try and get a safe place, a lot of these mob have been to other places but to them it’s a waste of time,” Mr Bropho told NITV News.
“What we really want is to get someone down to speak to the grass level people, talk to these people about the issues,” he said.
Mr Bropho support has also grown in the past three weeks with an online fundraiser started to help him feed the homeless, which he and his family have been able to do for the past week.
Last week, local media reported the state government’s Hotel with Heart pilot program, which was established as a response to the coronavirus pandemic, had been abandoned due to the mixed results of the program’s participants.
Community Services Minister Simone McGurk said 11 out of 20 participants had left the program early due to the 28-day hotel quarantine restriction which was a condition of the program.
In a statement to NITV News, a spokesperson for the Department of Communities confirmed the program has commenced.
“Thanks to the efforts of Western Australians, five weeks after the pilot commenced, WA is in a very different position,” a statement said.
“The guests who completed the trial were moved into other accommodation arrangements late last week.”
The government’s second COVID homeless program appears to be heading in the same direction.
Woodman’s Point Recreation Camp was opened on April 10 and was at full capacity of 43 people within three days.
The Department of Communities confirms the camp is still operating as temporary accommodation but only has “around 10 people” there.
The Department of Communities said a longer-term strategy is currently being developed by the government to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all residents.
Housing First Homelessness Initiative (HFHI) will be fast-tracked to provide more outreach support workers, case managers and private rental subsides to help get people experiencing chronic rough sleeping into housing with support.
On Sunday, the Western Australian government announced its plan out of COVID easing a number of restrictions including the lifting of some regional boundaries.
WA has recorded only two new COVID cases since the beginning of the month.