Christmas, begging and homelessness in Freo

In the lead up to Christmas there has been renewed discussion around homelessness and begging in Fremantle.

The last ever 7.30WA Report story on Friday covered this topic from a Fremantle perspective.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-12-05/feeding-the-homeless-at-christmas/5948654

The Sunday Times and Fremantle Herald have also run articles on it recently.

Broadly speaking, they examined the City of Fremantle’s recent position on begging which aims to develop a more nuanced and holistic response to the problem. This both manages begging in the Fremantle and limits where it can occur while at the same time actively engaging with those needing to beg or are homelessness and directing them to key social service providers so they have a genuine alternative.

In recent days, The Fremantle Council has copped a bit of criticism for our take on the issue. Some suggest that we should adopt the City of Perth’s approach by petitioning the State Government to ban begging all together; others suggest that we are too harsh and are wrong to limit begging to certain locations.

Whilst I’m not arguing our current approach is perfectly balanced, I do believe that it’s in this middle ground between no regulation and a straight out ban that a solution can be found.

At the heart of our solution is the need to enable the City of Fremantle’s community safety officers to actively engage with those in need on our streets to point them in the direction of services.

Here’s a good news story I was told a few weeks ago was by one of Fremantle’s homeless regulars – Brett. You might remember Brett as he regularly begged in 2014 outside Red Dot with his black and white dog and trolley full of gear. Brett stopped me in the street about a month ago to say he wanted to say “goodbye” as he was leaving Fremantle. He told me he was put in touch with St Pat’s Street to Home program that helped him straighten out his life. They then got him a job as a boiler maker on the east coast and a house. They even enabled him to get his dog to move back east with him. A couple of his mates who are still on the street told me a couple of days ago he’s settled in well and even has a car!

Key to this story is the great work that St Pats do in Fremantle. As the ABC showed though organisations like this are unable to keep up with the demands put on their services.

I believe that if we are serious about dealing with this complex issue then we need to look beyond simplistic, heavy handed approaches to instead tackle the underlying issues of homelessness, mental health and addiction is needed.

But for this to happen then these most disadvantaged in our community need a helping hand to get back on their feet. As I said to the ABC as we approach Christmas I strongly encourage you to … “Take that money you were going to give to those begging, double it, and take it down to St Pats or some other community organisation so they can provide the real services people need over Christmas”

About Mayor of Fremantle Brad Pettitt's blog
City of Fremantle Mayor

2 Responses to Christmas, begging and homelessness in Freo

  1. blagg60 says:

    Thanks for this Brad. It’s very timely and compassionate.

  2. waexplorer says:

    So good to hear about Brett, I wish him all the very best and hopefully there will be more good news stories like that.

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