A new development has arisen in the ongoing dispute over a crucial women’s shelter, with both the WA government and the Lord Mayor presenting competing solutions to address the issue of vulnerable women in Perth.
Last month, the East Perth Safe Night Space closed its doors, leading to a blame game between the City of Perth and the state government. For two and a half years, the shelter had offered a safe haven for up to 30 women nightly, providing shelter, food, and basic amenities—the primary refuge for women facing homelessness.
Initially, the City of Perth, supporting the service run by the non-profit organization Ruah, decided to close it in November, citing complaints from nearby residents. Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas mentioned concerns from ratepayers and suggested that state government funding only materialized after his commitment to the community.
The closure raised concerns about the limited options vulnerable women would face, potentially forcing them to choose between returning to unsafe situations or sleeping on the streets.
However, a week after the closure, two potential solutions have emerged.
In a letter to Homelessness Minister John Carey, Lord Mayor Zempilas proposed collaborating with Vincent Mayor Alison Xamon to relocate the service. Uniting WA confirmed its capacity to run the service from the Tranby Engagement Hub in Northbridge, pending minor modifications and necessary approvals. Zempilas emphasized that this move could only happen if Uniting WA received the $3.1 million offered by the state government to Ruah.
On the other hand, Ruah CEO Debra Zanella engaged in discussions with the City of Perth about continuing the Safe Night Space from its day center on James Street. Zanella highlighted the ongoing impact of the closure, including injuries and assaults, and proposed a solution using the James Street facility with the city’s support.
Minister Carey expressed support for Ruah to continue providing the service, citing their established relationships and experience. He urged the City of Perth to expedite Ruah’s application for the use of the James Street facility or reconsider allowing them back into the Rod Evans Centre.
While any solution keeping women off the streets is considered positive, Zanella expressed concerns about a new service taking over, emphasizing the trust and rapport built over the past two and a half years.
As discussions unfold, rumors circulate about Lord Mayor Zempilas potentially entering state politics as a Liberal candidate, prompting calls for transparency about his intentions. Zempilas maintains his focus on his current role as the leader of the City of Perth.