Candlelit vigil held to highlight growing number of homeless youth in WA - Gian De Poloni for ABC News

29 April 2015

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Nearly 100 people have held a candlelit vigil in the gardens of Parliament House to draw attention to the growing number of homeless young people in Western Australia.

An estimated 6,000 young people are sleeping rough, couch surfing or staying in crisis accommodation across the state every night.

Youth Affairs Council of WA chief executive Craig Comrie said WA has the second highest per capita rate of homeless youth in the country.

"We're talking from everyone from our young people on the streets, so the ones you see begging potentially, all the way through to young people who may be couch surfing or staying in crisis accommodation," he said.

"They do have a roof over head, but in terms of stable accommodation, they don't have that.

"In WA, we've had some unique circumstances with very high rents and home ownership being very difficult for young people to attain.

I was lucky, I got in touch with services really early on before I actually ended up having to turn to the street. (Homeless, transgender woman)

"So it's been kind of a perfect storm around the issue of homelessness."

A homeless young transgender woman was one of the people who attended last night's vigil to mark Youth Homelessness Matters Day.

She did not want to be named, but said her experience was made even more difficult by her gender identity.

"It's hard, it's hard to maintain a job and go to school when you're always moving around the place where you have to travel to get to school and work, and it's hard as well having to settle into a new place every few months," she said.

"From the community, there's a little bit of stigma facing people who don't have stable accommodation but I find that there are quite a few services but not as many as we need for the amount of people that need to use them.

"To be honest, I've not had very good experiences with them because myself identifying as transgender, a lot of the services I've been through have not really understood or been able to work with that."

Number of young people turned away from services 'a disgrace'

She said people living homeless in Perth are a strong group who support each other through difficult times.

"People stick together and people look out for each other for safety and there's a bit of a family thing going on," she said.

"It is a strong community because we know what each other have been through, we've been through similar issues you know, being kicked out of home or not being able to afford rent.

"With any kind of oppressed group or any different group of people there's always going to be that common link.

"I think the experiences of people living homeless really varies on what help you get in touch with and at what point.

Photo: People held candles to highlight the plight of the homeless in Perth (ABC News: Gian De Poloni)

"I was lucky, I got in touch with services really early on before I actually ended up having to turn to the street.

"Some people on the street don't know that there are any services available to them, they don't have the access to that."

Mr Comrie said it is extremely difficult for someone on the street to obtain a bed at one of crisis accommodation services on offer in Perth.

"We know that about 90 per cent of young people who step on the door of crisis services are turned away and that's just a disgrace," he said.

"The main thing these people are saying is they can't get access to the services that they need."

Australian Greens Senator for WA Scott Ludlam said funding for youth outreach services needed to be dramatically increased in the upcoming federal and state budgets.

"There is a lot of people [who are homeless] when you consider this is one of the richest states anywhere in the world," he said.

"Homelessness is not that mysterious, its reasonably well understood and we've actually got great programs and great services here in WA but there's just a really chronic funding short fall.

"Politicians seem to be pretending to be helpless to do anything about it."