National

Plea to help WA’s homeless during COVID-19

By AAP Newswire

Advocates for the homeless are calling on the West Australian government to immediately expand its accommodation trial to protect everyone struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.

The state government is trialling voluntary accommodation for 20 homeless people at the Pan Pacific hotel.

But National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Recovery Project coordinator Gerry Georgatos says it is "ludicrous and grossly irresponsible" to leave about 980 other people out of the Hotels with Heart program.

"It's a humanity issue ... and a public health issue," he told AAP on Wednesday.

"Those people should not be in the streets at a higher risk than everyone else."

Mr Georgatos said his organisation had put up 41 people at various hotels but had "blown the budget".

He said no hotel was asking for more than $100 per night, which the state government could afford to protect the community from COVID-19.

"Trials are no way forward," he said.

"It's bloody reprehensible. It's like a leak in a boat having the homeless on the street."

If the one-month trial is successful, the state government plans to expand it to help people experiencing domestic violence and mental health issues.

A state government spokeswoman told AAP chronic and long-term rough sleepers had been targeted for the pilot because they were at highest risk of contracting COVID-19.

"The pilot is necessary because we want to know that it is the best response for this vulnerable cohort over a longer period of time, before any decisions are made about scaling it up," she said.

"The aim of the Hotels with Heart pilot has always been to get ahead of the curve and develop an evidence-based, therapeutic model that would protect the most vulnerable rough sleepers from community transmission of COVID-19.

"The state government is monitoring the outcomes from the pilot project closely and will make a decision about whether it is scaled up using the evidence collected."