Youth Support Service PICYS fights to stay in Blencowe Street

Perth Inner City Youth Services (PICYS) is appealing a decision by the Town of Cambridge who have refused an application to change the use of their long held property in Blencowe Street, West Leederville.

PICYS has operated as a not for profit youth accommodation and support service in the street since 1983, providing critical housing and social support for young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

While the original focus of the property at Blencowe Street was on accommodating young people in the house, the organisation wishes to transition to a model where the young people it services are accommodated in other nearby premises with the Blencowe Street property providing the support mechanisms to help them with their independent living arrangements. PICYS also engages youth workers who provide the young people with invaluable psycho-social support services.

The PICYS planning application for a broader ‘community purpose’ use was supported by the Town of Cambridge administration but rejected by the Council in December. Now the matter is progressing to the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT).

Andrew Hall, who has been Executive Officer of PICYS since December 2014, said he is mystified as to why the Council would reject the proposal.

“PICYS has been operating for nearly 40 years without any complaints that we are aware of. We have won awards for the service we provide to young people and have the support of our neighbours in Blencowe Street to continue at the property,” Hall said.

The important work the community organisation does has been highlighted by some of their former clients.

Syrena Taqwa, who has been a client of PICYS, credits the agency for saving her from a life on the streets.

“If it wasn’t for PICYS I don’t where I would be now. The property at Blencowe Street has been a God send for me. It is perfectly located for what young people need and has a nice family home type atmosphere that is so important for young people who are lacking the support of a close family,” Taqwa said.

Kacey Renfrew also shared how she had been supported by the service.

“PICYS house is a safe place, its welcoming and homely and feels friendly. I even introduced my brother to come here for support he needed. You feel like you are at home, a judgement free environment and a safe place. Its not clinical, it’s a home,” Renfrew said.

Taylah Sewell said the organisation was success because it gave young people a sense of belonging.

“Physical structure can make a significant sense of place and belonging, PICYS house allows comfort and safety to let me let my ‘walls’ down and reflect and grow. The kitchen is often said to be the heart of a home, and it is the heart at PICYS.”

Andrew Hall hopes that the Cambridge Town Council will reconsider its position before the matter goes to a full hearing in November this year.

“Going to a full hearing will cost time, energy and legal fees. This seems such an unnecessary process given the support PICYS has in the local community for the work it does”.

A spokesperson for the Town of Cambridge confirmed to OUTinPerth that the matter would be taken to the State Administrative Tribunal and no further comment was given as to the council’s reasoning while the matter was before the SAT.

Council records show that when the matter was put before the council last year the majority of the appraisal of the application focused on the town’s requirements that consultancy based organisations have sufficient off street parking. The council’s guidelines would require PICYS to have 14 off street car bays, and the current building could only allow for 8 cars to be parked at the rear of the building.

The administrative staff however highlighted that the rule did not make a lot sense in the context of PICYS as most of their clients, who are experiencing homelessness are not old enough to drive or in a position to purchase a car.

The application was only supported by Councilor Gary Mack, while the Mayor Kari Shannon and the other councilors present voted against the change of use.

Graeme Watson

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