Local News

Zim student staying at homeless shelter in Australia

For the past two weeks, international student Charlene Kamba-Gotora has been living in a homeless shelter in East Perth, Australia because she has been unable to find accommodation in the midst of Perth’s rental crisis.

The 27-year-old from Zimbabwe said she has been sleeping at Safe Night Space with no beds and only one shower for the 30 women it accommodates most evenings.

“There are just a few couches and mats that we use to sleep on, and it’s first-in, best-dressed and that includes the food, which is usually bread and butter and noodles,” she said.

“There are also no facilities like a laundry and you can’t leave your belongings there.

“The centre is only open from 7pm and we need to leave by 7am the next day. It’s hard to maintain a job or your studies when you find yourself in this situation.

“After spending so many years working towards my goals and dreams everything is falling apart.”

Kamba-Gotora said when she wasn’t working, she went to her storage unit to change into clean clothes and then spent the day at libraries or cafes in the city where she could get free WiFi and charge her devices.

“I can understand why the other people spend time in the parks,” she said.

“There is nowhere to go. Centres like Ruah are open from 8.30am until 2pm but then you are forced back on the streets until 7pm.”

Kamba-Gotora added they were only permitted to stay at the shelter for a maximum of 10 nights.

“Then you have to leave for two nights,” she said.

“They can take you back in for another 10 nights after you have left for those two nights, but where do we go for those two nights?

“We are there because we are homeless.”

Kamba-Gotora first came to Perth five years ago to study a diploma in communications and creative industries before undertaking a university degree in communications, majoring in public relations.

She initially stayed on campus before living in share houses and then securing a rental property.

“I was in the rental for nearly four years when the owners decided to sell last year,” she said.

“Then I ended up in a hostel for four months and when demand starting increasing I couldn’t even secure a hostel bed in a six-bed dorm. I started staying in hotels and lodges but it was so expensive.”

She has witnessed a dramatic reduction in the availability of accommodation in that time and the average cost of a single room had reached up to $485 a week without bills included.

“Australia is ranked in the top 10 countries for the best quality of life,” she said.

“It is hard to believe this is happening.”

Perth’s vacancy rate is 0.7 per cent, with the median rent at $550 per week.

A report released late last year by the Student Accommodation Council, part of the Property Council of Australia, showed many Australian cities were already at capacity for purpose-built student accommodation, with Perth expecting zero vacancy rates in 2023 across its eight purpose-built student accommodation buildings, a total of 4200 beds.

In February, student guild presidents from the University of WA and Edith Cowan, Curtin and Murdoch universities wrote to WA International Education Minister David Templeman requesting he consider using the Bullsbrook quarantine facility, completed mid-last year and never used, for short-term accommodation for international students.

However, the facility was deemed unsuitable for temporary student accommodation due to its isolated location, constraints around the design based on short-stay quarantine, and the lack of surrounding services and amenities.

Curtin University Student Guild president Dylan Botica said international students were reporting back home that WA was an expensive and difficult place to live.

“We have seen international students in short-term unstable accommodation with overcrowding and unsafe conditions commonplace,” he said.

“It is common to hear issues of exploitative pricing for international students living illegally through informal tenancy arrangements added on top of the already present cost of living crisis.”

A state government spokeswoman said earlier this year that the shortage of purpose-built student accommodation was a global issue.

Centrecare director Tony Pietropiccolo said there had been a significant increase in demand from people who were homeless or at risk of homelessness, which the service couldn’t meet.

Its accommodation service for the metro area has 363 families totalling 1224 individuals waitlisted between July and December 2022.

From those waitlisted, only 12 applicants were able to be housed.

Pietropiccolo said of the hundreds of clients who approached the organisation because they were homeless, more than 45 per cent said it was because they had been unable to secure a private rental.

“People are unable to secure a rental despite their best efforts applying for one,” he said.

“So many people are being asked to leave current rentals for a variety of reasons including the rent has gone up too much, the landlord moving back in, and the landlord selling the property.”

Related Articles

Back to top button