Public anger over proposed community center in Northbridge for people who are homeless

A developer wants to turn a row of buildings in Northbridge into a walk-in center for people who are homeless, but there is “undisputed community opposition” to the project.

Landowner Sawasdee Pty Ltd plans to convert two one-story buildings and one two-story building at 247 to 249 James Street into a Ruah community center.

The center would provide services to people who are homeless, including connecting people with accommodation services, specialist services such as alcohol and drug assistance and mental health services, as well as legal services.


The center will also provide emergency aid and light food for people to take with them.

Ruah currently operates its homelessness services at 29 to 35 Shenton Street but wants to move them to the James Street site – just 270 meters away – to make way for future redevelopment.

Ruah Community Services received state approval in April to build a $15 million seven-story center for women and children escaping domestic violence at its current Shenton Street address.

But the move is subject to a council decision to allow for a change of use of the existing two-story James Street building – formerly home to the Skills Institute of Australia – from educational to community and culture.

City of Perth staff has recommended that councilors vote next week to change the use of the building so that the landowner can relocate Ruah’s homelessness services.

“The proposed uses are not considered incompatible with existing commercial uses in the immediate area and can be managed appropriately to minimize the potential impact on the homes on the north side of James Street and in the wider area,” a city report said.

Camera IconA two-story building at 247 James Street in Northbridge. Credit:

But some landowners in the area are confused about the possibility that the move of the Ruah service will involve antisocial behavior.

Nick Hitting – speaking on behalf of the owners of 243, 233, 239, and 238 James Street – said the council should deny the development application at next week’s meeting.

community center

“There is an undisputed social opposition to the use,” he said.

“The application covers safety, impact on visual amenities, impact on business operations, risk of antisocial behavior, and major new developments at risk, including one approved for 233 to 239 James Street, a 16-level mixed-use facility. Development.

“My client is reconsidering that development because of potential issues surrounding the proposed use.”

Rosanna Ciccotosto – who owns two commercial units at 228 James Street – said that if the development were approved, her two tenants would not renew their leases.

“The antisocial behavior we have already endured while Ruah’s is in Shenton Street is being moved around the corner to James Street,” she said.

Camera Icon 247 to 249 James Street in Northbridge. Credit:

“Just because parts of Northbridge look like a ghetto and businesses are leaving en masse because they don’t feel like dealing with lawlessness and hanging out anymore, are we allowing Ruah to move to James Street?”

“Or are we trying to make Northbridge the entertainment district it used to be – and can be again – with thriving restaurants, cafes, and nightlife?”

The city received 71 public submissions on the development, with 64 objecting, four in support, and three seeking more information.

The main areas of concern are increased crime, vandalism, and human waste, including urine and feces, while avenues and parking lots could become a shooting range and toilet.

Other concerns include that the development could threaten a thriving neighborhood, it would be close to a liquor store, and there could be lost sales and revenue due to customer concerns about safety.

The report said that while there were community concerns, the city believed the proposed development “would be able to coexist with other existing and future uses in the district”.

Dale Page, the city’s general manager for planning and economic development, told councilors at a briefing session Tuesday that the town was not lacking in consideration or empathy; the planning was law-bound.

“It’s not that the planners aren’t concerned about the impact, and it’s not that the planners aren’t concerned about the views of residents, businesses, and the applicant,” she said.

“But according to spatial planning and preconditions, we are limited to certain things that we can taconsider

Ruah general manager for housing and homelessness Elsie Blay – who spoke in support of the development – told councilors on Tuesday that the proposed community center on James Street is part of the solution to end homelessness.

“It will enable Ruah to provide services not only to people who are sleeping rough but also to the wider community experiencing problems and those who have recently been accommodated,” she said.

“Our Northbridge services reduce the number of people becoming homeless; they add nothing to it.

“Without our services, more people will sleep rough in Perth’s CBD and Northbridge; we are part of the solution and want to work together to end homelessness.”

The landowner has no plans to change the existing two-story building physically.

It is suggested to be open only Monday to Friday between 8.30 am and 2 pm.

The center will not open at night, on weekends, or on public holidays.

John D.Mayne
I love to write. When I wasn’t writing for my school newspaper or college blog, I was writing personal essays and journal entries. Then I discovered I loved to write. In college, I wrote for my school paper and my campus radio show. I started doing freelance writing for the Huffington Post in 2009. Then, I joined the team at Newsmyth as a writer/editor. Now, I spend most of my time writing for Newsmyth and as a guest blogger on a handful of other blogs. When I’m not writing, I like to read, travel, cook, and spend time with friends.