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Date posted: 22 December 2011
The ABC has reported that many Indigenous people visiting Kalgoorlie-Boulder over Christmas will find themselves temporarily homeless and suffer from poor environmental health while sleeping rough.
During the Christmas season, many visitors from remote Indigenous communities in the northern goldfields and Western desert visit Kalgoorlie-Boulder, but are unable to get home if lifts are unavailable or cars break down. No public bus services to remote communities are available.
The ABC reports that many of the people stuck in town over Christmas end up at the notorious Boulder town camp or sleeping rough at the north end of Kalgoorlie, or in tents and humpies outside Ninga Mia community.
Mr Wayne Johnson, CEO of Bega Garnbirringu Aboriginal Medical Service, says that his staff recognise that 'there are a significant number of people who are homeless, some temporarily, some who live permanently on the fringes.'
The answer, he says, is to accept the reality of peoples' lives and make better plans to support them, rather than complaining that such people are there.
The Boulder camp, originally set up by the local council to accommodate rough sleepers, is now a collection of open sheds, where residents are far from services and food, and are sometimes victims of assaults.
Health workers from Bega visit Kalgoorlie's rough sleepers every day, providing food and checking on their welfare, and Wayne Johnson says a lot their health problems are caused by the way they live.
'A big part of what we recognise drives people into a clinic is poor environmental health.'
'The state government has recently funded the Rough sleeper (assertive outreach) program and they have to be applauded for that.'
Johnson also believes that the Boulder Indigenous Visitors Short Stay facility, due to open in July 2012, will make a huge difference to the wellbeing of visitors who are currently homeless.