Homeless fight for decent life

28 May 2008

By The Record

By Mark Reidy
When Felix and Fiona travelled with their six children from Port Headland to Perth in December last year, they yearned for a brighter life, one that would provide them with hope and opportunity.


Reality: Felix and Fiona and their six children have been living on the streets of Perth for five months. Now that Winter is here, they have nowhere to call home. They say government and non-government agencies have been unable to help them find a place to live. Photo: Mark Reidy


But after five arduous months of living on the streets and with no end in sight, their dreams of a new beginning have been devastated by the burden of homelessness.
Life in Port Headland had contained its own set of difficulties as the family had crowded into the home of relatives. The stress of such conditions had eventually become too much and resulted in the journey south. But as Felix, 39, stood in the drizzle in a park in North Perth, with the family’s possessions crammed into two prams, one could sense the weight of responsibility that was crushing him as both a man and a father.
As his youngest children, Bernadine, 7, and Shakya, 5, huddle in my car to escape the blustering wind, Felix stares blankly as he speaks about the fear he has for his children’s’ welfare. He and Fiona have just made the heart-rending decision to send their three youngest sons, Kelvin, 11, Jermaine, 13 and Mathew, 15, back to Port Headland so that they can recommence their education. Felix Jnr, 17, will stay in Perth.
Having to shift from various squats over the past months and worrying about the daily needs for their family, the enrolment of the children into school has been continuously postponed. As a result, Felix said that the boys had been becoming increasingly difficult to monitor and discipline. “They are hanging out with other kids who are roaming the streets and getting themselves into trouble,” he laments. “Without a place to live, it is impossible to watch over and protect them as parents should.” Fiona nods sadly in agreement.
Over the past five months, they had been able to keep the family together, but as agency after agency informed them of the excessive waiting lists for housing, with no one being able to promise anything within the year, the couple made the difficult decision to send the boys north. “If we do get a house”, says Felix despondently, “We will bring them back so that we can be a family once more.”
At the moment they are staying under the carport of a small business, arriving late at night and leaving early in the morning. It is at least shelter from the rain they say, but it is far from ideal. Felix says that he has been awoken on several occasions to chase away people who are drunk or sniffing paint and has had to lie awake to ensure his family’s safety. Fiona has had her handbag stolen and on several occasions they have returned to find that their welfare-provided blankets, mattresses and clothes have disappeared, making their nights even more uncomfortable than usual.
Felix and Fiona are aware that they are part of a wider epidemic that is sweeping the city and welcome the sentiments of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who has promised to address the problem. But as the nights get colder, and their health and hope deteriorate, words are of little comfort to a family that has no place to call home.

If anyone is able to assist this family with accommodation, please contact The Record on 9227 7080.