A Salvation Army spokesman said the organisation had originally stopped the food service in February, only to start again at the request of the City of Perth because of the impact of COVID-19 on the homeless.
The City of Perth, however, told WAtoday it only allowed for an outreach service rather than food delivery.
“In February 2020, the Salvation Army were approved to deliver a roving outreach service on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights in the City of Perth, this approval did not include the provision of food,” a spokeswoman said.
“During the height of COVID-19 in Perth, the Salvation Army were approved to offer a breakfast service between 7am-9am for people experiencing homelessness – this service was for a short period of time.
“However, the Salvation Army extended food service delivery to Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings without prior approval and co-ordination with the city.
“The Salvation Army, once made aware, are ceasing the food service.”
The spokeswoman said there would still be food available on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings in the City of Perth for people experiencing homelessness.
“The city welcomes an application from the Salvation Army should they wish to offer further services as part of a co-ordinated approach,” she said.
The Salvation Army will continue to provide outreach services – which involve welfare checks, providing referrals to other organisations and responding to crisis situations – within the City of Perth.
Salvation Army volunteer Rod Macduff said the “ban” by the City of Perth on the organisation feeding homeless people within city boundaries appeared to part of a policy to drive the homeless out of Perth.
“Sweeping away tent city is not the answer. The ‘problem’ will only appear elsewhere. Tent city would disappear naturally if its occupants were listened to and given socially appropriate choices,” he said.
“Ghettoising people who are sleeping outside into one small area can have many bad effects. Rough sleepers who are taking crystal meth can be quite aggressive and disruptive and so when groups are too close together fights can start and it is very unpleasant for the majority of quiet rough sleepers.
“Agencies like Salvos already know the answers to minimise the harm to the homeless and to society. Perth Council should listen to them.”
Homelessness was one of the main issues campaigned around in the recent City of Perth election.
Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas was elected in October with a promise he would work with Queensland-based Beddown, which turns multi-storey carparks into safe places for homeless people to sleep at night-time, in Perth.
Mr Zempilas has yet to move any motions in council about the idea, but recently met with Community Services Minister Simone McGurk and Department of Communities director general Michelle Andrews.
Ms Andrews fronted a parliamentary committee last week and said Mr Zempilas was keen to look at new facilities in the first half of next year.
“But he is equally interested to partner with us, recognising the long experience we have had with both the complexities … and what can seem like good ideas but can end badly,” she said.
“We are looking at what they see as being an important solution for them in the short to medium term and looking to see that we can design and wrap appropriate services around that that takes us forward and not backwards.”
The development of a safe night space for women in East Perth by late February was approved at last month’s council meeting, with a location yet to be found for a future all-genders facility.
House the Homeless WA spokesman Jesse Noakes said despite many proposed solutions during the Lord Mayor campaign, vulnerable people were still sleeping in tents without basic security.
“Rather than blowing it all on Australia Day, in the spirit of inclusion the City of Perth should spend $1.5 million funding supported transitional accommodation for the homeless, the only way to get people off the streets before Christmas,” he said.
“I don’t think anyone wants groups of people in tents to be the only Nativity scene in Perth this year.
“Some 50 people currently seek shelter at tent city in East Perth, where they have been stranded throughout the election campaign and are now abandoned. Assaults, abuse and violence from predators are increasing.
“Meanwhile, an empty backpackers’ hostel with 50 beds sits ready and vacant in the heart of the city. Identified as a potential solution during the election campaign, it is available now as a supported, transitional accommodation solution to the problem blowing up at tent city.”
Peter de Kruijff is a journalist with WAtoday.