By Claire Ottaviano
CORONAVIRUS has considerably slowed but not stopped plans for a homeless and vulnerable housing development for Noongar people in Wundowie.
The former El Cabello Blanco hotel and theme park turned Lifestyle Village, purchased by Aboriginal Housing Foundation (AHF) in May, is set to become home to a new multi-purpose complex with accommodation for up to 180 vulnerable Noongar people.
At the time, former South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC) chief executive Wayne Nannup said the site’s existing sub-division and aged care approvals meant development of new facilities could start immediately.
Now Aboriginal Housing Recovery Centre managing director, Mr Nannup told Echo News this week the project was not yet able to reach the construction phase.
“We had our program set out then COVID-19 came along and threw our planning out significantly,” he said.
“Initially we were thinking about how we could support our most needy through programs up at the resort, but the reality is we’ve not been able to get up to that point.”
Aboriginal Housing Recovery Centre is a co-trustee of the AHF, set-up by SWALSC to address homelessness among South West Noongar people while waiting for an outcome to the South West Native Title Settlement.
It involves purchasing strategically located properties and developing them into integrated hubs offering accommodation options as well as care and support services and training to empower Aboriginal people to transform their lives.
The project plans to tackle unemployment, family violence, a lack of childcare and alcohol and drug use issues which can not only lead to homelessness but are in turn exacerbated by a lack of permanent accommodation.
The focus now is on maintenance of the lifestyle village, repurposing of existing infrastructure and program approval and funding.
“The programs we think we might want to run up there are the basis of our [current] applications,” Mr Nannup said.
“And effectively we’re still in the process of trying to assure and get funding so we can run the programs properly.”
He said the project had faced many obstacles, and couldn’t put a timeline on future development.
One of those obstacles includes continuing tension between AHF and the existing residents which is yet to be resolved.
“We’ve got a whole heap of communication that’s been happening up there and we continue to do the best we can,” he said.
“We always had the interest of the lifestyle village at heart.
“The reality is sometimes things change, you get a new owner and if people aren’t happy you have to try and work through that and that’s what we’ve been trying to do.”
A Department of Communities spokesperson said the project’s service model was still in the development phase.
“The Department of Communities has met with the project’s proponents and is happy to work with them in developing a service model that fits the Department’s broader goals in addressing homelessness, as well as working with them on the relevant government processes should it progress,” they said.
In the meantime while discussions continue, Mr Nannup said the end goal remained the same.
“We are hoping to be able to deliver programs to the most needy within our community, the Noongar community, that’s always been our focus,” he said.
“This is not a for-profit organisation, it’s complementary, the main thing we’re focused on is the social return for such an amazing place for the Noongar people.”