PODCAST: Poverty and homelessness, a responsibility of all in the community

27 May 2021

By Amanda Murthy

The Record sat down with Centrecare Incorporated’s Director Adjunct Professor Tony Pietropiccolo AM last week, to discuss the issue of housing, homelessness, mental health, and the need to value children – which he says, WA currently lacks. Photo: Supplied.

Director of Centrecare Incorporated for the past 32 years, Adjunct Professor Tony Pietropiccolo AM sat down at The Record studio to discuss the issue of poverty and homelessness which he says, Western Australians have been severely facing for more than 20 years.

Named Member of the Order of Australia in the General Division (AM) (2012), he is also an Adj Prof in the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Notre Dame’s Fremantle Campus.

His involvement extends with WA Council of Social Services, WA State Homelessness taskforce (22 years), Community Employers WA, and a member of the WA Ministerial Advisory Council on Child Protection, amongst others.

In January 2016, Adj Prof Pietropiccolo established the Valuing Children Initiative (VCI), which he explained, aims to “inspire Australians to value all children, understand that a child’s wellbeing is the shared responsibility of the entire community and ensure children are at the forefront of our considerations”.

Through his involvement with VCI, Adj Prof Pietropiccolo produced a report in 2019 titled “A childhood without poverty.”

“Three quarters of a million children living in poverty, 100 thousand of them living in Perth, and we can do something significant about it,” Adj Prof Pietropiccolo said.

Adj Prof Pietropiccolo said that the general position politicians have pushed over the years that “poor people are themselves responsible for their poverty, and that it is their fault”, must stop.

Many people who face poverty, face the fate of homelessness, and being homeless, Adj Prof Pietropiccolo said, extends beyond living in the streets – people who couch-surf, live in their vehicles, live at caravan parks, live with their families – anyone who cannot afford rent or anyone who falls victim to the lack of housing available (especially families with children), falls under that category.

“At the moment we have a four per cent vacancy rate for housing available in WA, and what that means is that there is close to no housing available for rental, other than those houses that are not in the condition to be living in or houses that people cannot afford,” Adj Prof Pietropiccolo.

“Centrecare Inc has a service, EntryPoint, that people can call in to get help from if they are homeless or at the risk of homelessness, and on 6 May 2021, myself along with CEO’s from organisations providing emergency relief funding, support to renters in the private rental market, and peak bodies – Shelter WA, Anglicare WA, WA Association of Mental Health and WA Council of Social Service, released an open letter to the WA Premier addressing our concern on the impact and harm of the escalating housing crisis which we now refer to as an emergency.”

“….Our leaders have a significant responsibility to ensure everyone in the community has access to housing, governments cannot wash their hands of providing for citizens, housing is fundamental to an individual and a family’s health and well-being,” he added.

Adj Prof Pietropiccolo concluded by saying that the community plays a vital role in ensuring that everyone educates themselves, bring awareness and express their expectation on this issue of housing, which is a fundamental human right.

Some key factors relating to the housing issue in WA, according to ShelterWA’s findings, as of 8 March 2021:

  • Over 9,000 people experience homelessness every day in WA.
  • Over 30,000 people are on the wait list for social housing.
  • Over 70,000 renters on low incomes are in rental stress (paying over 30% of income on rent).
  • There is a shortfall of 39,200 social and 19,300 affordable homes across WA.
  • Only 119 social housing properties were built in the last three years and in the last three years the number of social homes decreased by 1155 properties.

To learn more about Adj Prof Tony’s initiatives, click on the links below:

Centrecare Inc: https://www.centrecare.com.au/

Valuing Children Initiative: http://valuingchildreninitiative.com.au/

EntryPoint Perth: https://www.entrypointperth.com.au/directory/centrecare-general-counselling/

Stellar Living: https://www.centrecare.com.au/metro-services/accommodation-and-support-services/stellar-living

Adj Prof Pietropiccolo’s research paper on childhood poverty: https://www.centrecare.com.au/news/a-childhood-without-poverty

ShelterWA: https://www.shelterwa.org.au/

Tenants who require support can contact:

  • Dept. Consumer Protection – for evictions and tenancy advice – 1300 304 054
  • Circle Green Community Legal – for all tenancy advice – 6148 3636
  • Financial Counsellors of WA – for financial counselling 9325 1617
  • WAConnect.org.au – for emergency relief near you