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UWA students to help solve WA’s rising homelessness rates this summer

3 December, 2019

At any given time, there are at least 9000 people homeless across Western Australia.  

In January 2020, a group of University of WA students will help turn that statistic around.

The McCusker Centre for Citizenship at UWA has partnered with the WA Alliance to End Homelessness (WAAEH) to offer the undergraduate summer school unit Approaches to Wicked Problems for the first time.

Students will learn about ways of addressing homelessness in WA, contribute to a project that will have a real impact in the community, and directly learn from people working in not-for-profit services and those who have personally experienced homelessness.

WAAEH Project Facilitator Claire Dodd, who will assume the role of Academic Coordinator at the McCusker Centre for Citizenship in 2020, said the unit was focused on engaging with students to help find real solutions.

“Thankfully we know it’s possible to end homelessness, and WAAEH and many other places around the world are making a huge impact,” she said.

Academic Coordinator Kylie Hansen said students would walk away from the unit with a “grounded, very real perspective” of the challenges of homelessness in WA.

“Our approach to teaching and learning at the McCusker Centre for Citizenship is ensuring students are connected and embedded with real-world challenges – with communities and the sector that serves them,” Ms Hansen said.

“Approaches to Wicked Problems is an example of the collaborative approach we have to teaching and learning, and it is a unique approach in tertiary education.

Ms Hansen said students will make a meaningful contribution to the work of the WAAEH and the challenges they are currently facing.

“Students coming through the Centre and are attracted to our programs because they care about their communities, and they want to understand more about complex social issues – including homelessness, family and domestic violence, loneliness – so they can make an impact.

Ms Dodd said it was important to remember that homelessness was not only those “trying to survive on the streets” – people could be in short-term or temporary accommodation, sleeping in cars or couch surfing.

“For people sleeping rough, the personal cost is devastating: life expectancy is just 45 years and mental health issues are very common,” she said.

“Individually, there are so many things anyone can do like volunteering or donating to a cause.

 “It can even be as simple as when passing someone on the street, just smile and say hello. Human connection is so important.”