What follows is a letter sent to several government bodies and departments by a home owner at her wits' end. Natalie's home in Spalding has been damaged extensively, and as you will read, she has become caught between a rock and a hard place.
We have included responses sent to Natalie as provided.
We have also spoken to Natalie in person, and she tells us that despite the responses from various departments, she's still without a clue as to what to do, and has been advised personally by many of the officials she spoke with that there is no point in fixing the property as it will likely be damaged again.
There is also a letter from another home owner on Strickland Street to the Housing Authority regarding one of their properties.
I am writing to you all about my property at 70 Strickland Street Spalding, Geraldton. I bought this house off dad after my nanna died in approx. 2000. It is the only home I have ever had – will have.
It has been rented out mostly as I had to move from Geraldton for work. It was a great little house, great little suburb.
Now it is overrun by ferals. It is now the Bronx of Gero, is it not?
The DoHW built units next door. It was okay for the few first years. The units were promoted as accommodation for the elderly, given they a 1-2 bedrooms, 'we will choose good tenants, it will all be okay' the residents of the area where told.
Things have changed. My last tenant at 70 Strickland had been there for about 2-3 years. Beginning of 2015 the tenant did not renew her lease due to the anti-social behaviour by the tenants living [in the] units and ‘gangs’ of feral youth, children and adults who move in and out of these units and across the suburb of Spalding.
After the property had been vacated on the 08/04/15 I advised by my real estate agent (who had taken a potential tenant to view the place) that the house had been vandalised. I mean totally ruined. Stole the air con, smashed window, ripped out the light fittings, ripped out the blinds, holes in the walls, front door removed now missing, fence pushed over, they stole the rain water tank for Christ sakes. $10,000 worth of damage not to mention the loss of rent …..and this was just the start.
Got the house up to speed. Nearly ready to be rented gain – not that I am confident someone will rent it as its now in the middle of a war zone. 18th June – more damage, broken windows, entry screen door busted, more light fittings pulled out.
End of June 2015 they have now stolen the fake security alarms, ripped out and damaged all the new security screens, broken more windows. More damaged walls and fittings. The house is now boarded up and the graffiti is out of control. Started to get it fixed…again. (oh yes another report to useless police).
August 2015 – more damage lighting has been pulled out, bedroom walls and window frames kicked out, lots of wiring damage, cloth lines vandalized. They are making holes in the roof – this is letting moisture in! It’s just not stopping, no sooner than it gets fixed it’s another thing. Christ they are ripping through boarded up windows, they are ripping out security screens.
12th august 2015 the real estate [agent] said they did not want to manage the property anymore – too much work, too hard. I am reeling, I am actually physically sick and come Christmas time I am despairing as to what I am going to do. I am now working just to keep my head above water to pay my mortgage and deal with the costs of repairs that insurance will not cover, the insurance excess.
This was always going to be the home where I retired to, where I would die. Wondered if maybe I could build out the back. Mum needs somewhere to live, she is getting on in years. It’s not much, but I am a single middle age woman with little future prospects. But I just don’t know how this is ever going to happen now. I keep breathing and keep going. The work is done again.
I need a tenant in there to make the house more secure, but no real estate wants to manage the property. Regardless of the ongoing work the place is looking very sad and sorry. I can’t get a tenant until this stuff stops. It won’t stop until I get a tenant who can defend the house and themselves (as if they should have to). It is a vicious circle.
By the end of the year 2015 I am paralyzed numb and words cannot convey how distressed I am. Every email and phone call makes me want to vomit. I need to get the house up to speed again. I am desperately trying to find work in Gero just so I can go live in the house and try to do something about this even if I am at physical risk. But there is no work in Geraldton – I am stuck here working to try to pay the costs.
22/01/16 informed again the house had been trashed, that this time the damage is the worst it has ever been bad. All that repair work is meaningless….again. They even pulled out the plumbing and electrical power box. What hope have I got of any protection for my sad trashed little house. I feel so let down by the Geraldton authorities. This year insurance company very nearly declined to renew my insurance.
I note in March 2016 that the police are dealing with riots in Spalding. The local gossip is that the police are even scared of the ferals. People report that they are living next door, across the road from drug dealers, the area is out of control.
The house and its surroundings is trashed with syringes all the garden and house which is now the new injecting room in Gero. When confronted they just walk next door into the units.
Residents in the area and the street are saying they can’t say or won’t report or do anything as they are too fearful of retribution. I cant ‘substantiate’ as I am not there – there is no one in the house to ‘substantiate’. What is even the point of reporting.
Police and DoHW shrug it off, say yeh its all too bad but they can’t do anything without evidence. Get the evidence, press charges, prosecute then they can help. Right – how the hell do I do that? And I can guarantee the court will not take into account the history of my vandalised house for the fist offender charged. No one will ever be made accountable for the house.
I have worked in the NFP sector for the past 20 years. Do not talk to me about support programs, community responses, counseling, for these people. Do not talk to me about how disadvantaged these people are. Do not talk to me about the fact that “it’s just a few bad people’, most are good. I do not care anymore. Never again, will I work with these people, helping to build families, support them to work through their grief, try to keep them out of prison, help in any way I can, work on their drug use, their perpetration of violence and sex abuse, their apathy and their dismal lives.
I am not a violent person but all I want to do is make them feel the hurt I feel. Even though I know that this is illogical and wrong. What sort of person am I turning into?
And of course it has not stopped. In March 2016 there was more damage – to the floors, and someone has thrown plaster around.
And of course and then there is more…….now to top it offthey have actually put a hole through the brick wall ….and done more damage. I am so scared – this hole in the ceiling is bad structural damage. Winter is coming.
A fence is not going to stop this. Security alarms are not going to stop this. Security screens are not going to stop this. Repairing the house is not going to stop this. Nothing is going to stop this. I have had no choice but to stop all actions to affect repairs and make the house safe and livable. I have no choice but to do what I am doing now – writing to you.
Please can someone tell me what to do. The house is now so unsafe. What happens when the council tells me I have to pull it down or I have to do something about the state of the house? What do I tell them? What can I do? I have a mortgage for house that effectively does not exist. I am so trapped. Why do I have to have my human rights breached like this?
I challenge you to go have a look at the house. Do not judge me for being a bad homeowner – look at it and realize who is responsible for this. I challenge you to go do this when the ferals are roaming the streets.
This is not just me. Have a look at the house next door at 68 Strickland – it’s pretty much going down the same way.
God knows who the ferals are. Some are living next door in the DoHW units. Some are ‘visiting’ people in the units. Some of them are just roaming in packs across Spalding and Gero,
I would like you to ask the DOHW (Housing Authority)
- What have they done [if] anything over the past 2 years to manage their tenants?
- How many people are living in the units?
- Where are the dynamic and static security measures they have put in place that can monitor what is going on at the units and the surrounding homes that are been attacked and violated
- How residents can and should make complaints – regardless of your more “streamlined complaints” mechanisms, when they live literally in fear of doing so?
- How can incidents of disruptive behaviour be “substantiated” as dangerous when there is no one person who is holding residents by the hand to make reports as they are too fearful to do so?
- Do I have to go on the dole, move to Geraldton, live in a house that would be considered unfit for human accommodation, but risk my physical and safety of my property to “substantiated”, get evidence, prosecute and lay charges?
- How do I identify individuals and a group of feral and rabid drug users when I am stuck here in Kalgoorlie unable to relocate because I have to spend the majority of my wages on paying a mortgage for a house that I can’t rent out and have to deal with the constant vandalism?
- How are you adhering to the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 so Members of can be entitled to the quiet enjoyment of their own homes?
- What level of case management is given to the residents of the units?
I would like you to ask the Police
- What are they doing to in terms of investigating and responding to the break-ins and damage at 70 Strickland street over the course of the year?
- How many times have undertaken forensic procedures at 70 Strickland street?
- What are they doing to in terms of investigating and responding to the drug use not only at 70 Strickland but also at the DoHW units and in the suburb generally?
- What have they done about the stolen motorbikes and other items that have been left at 70 Strickland and in the surrounding area?
- What have done about the anti-social behaviour in the area?
- On what level do the police think it is appropriate to tell me there is nothing the police service can do? That the community needs to respond (and be responsible) when the majority of the ‘community’ are the perpetrators and offenders, and the rest of the community are the victims who live in fear of retribution, who have no capacity, interpersonal or legal power and authority to effect change?
- If telling homeowners that there is nothing they can do and to sell their homes is useful, proactive or practical given I could not give away the land, the house is trashed and if someone were going to purchase I would have to sell at a loss and still owe the bank?
Can you please ask the City of Geraldton
- What is the council’s response to this matter, how they view and do they care about the fact that Spalding / Strickland street has become essentially war zone?
- Why I / homeowners in the areas should pay rates for the privilege of been abused and victimised?
- Why the council does not recognise that not addressing such issues does not in any way assist with falling property prices, that people increasingly need to move out, and will not move into the area this situation only reinforces bad reputations, and increases the stress already existing upon a economically depressed city?
- What breaches of local government by-laws have been activated by this situation and what are they doing about them?
What is going to give here?
My name is Natalie
Response from Ian Blayney's office:
Ian has just been contacted by Minister Harvey’s office to advise that the Minister has personally responded to you, following his representation on your behalf.
He hopes the Minister has addressed your concerns and that the strategies being put in place go some way to resolving the problems you are having. However, he also hopes that if these fail that you will contact him to advise.
Ian has asked me to thank you for bringing this matter to his attention. Please don’t hesitate to contact his office for any further assistance.
Electorate Officer to:
Ian Blayney MLA
Member for Geraldton
Shop 2, 5 Chapman Road
Tel: 08 9964 1640
Fax: 08 9964 2982
Response from Mayor
Good afternoon Ms XXXX
Your personal circumstances have been discussed with the Police at my regular meetings as well as with local members of Parliament. As a City we can only take action to remedy graffiti and damage to City property. On a more macro level we are working with Police to develop strategies to reduce youth crime and antisocial behaviour including the recruitment of a youth crime prevention officer, who it is hoped can target the known trouble causers and divert them to more positive activities.
Mayor Shane Van Styn FCP
Further update from Natalie:
I spoke to the ranger at the council this week who suggested that that the report speaking to the above strategies in the council's domain will at a minimum take 6-7 mths to budget and/or implement. Mostly likely years to see any result. I heard that from her that they are also looking at using prison programs to assist in matters such as graffiti clean-up given the council states it is unable to assist with private landowners. I don’t feel that the time frame will assist. Given I have also worked with prisoner re-entry I am also uncertain how they are going to fund and get this program off the ground. This is all nice in theory.
I know this is not about ME – they don’t know me – I am sure that if they did they might care. I would be more than willing to speak to the perpetrators and provide a victim impact statement – if they gave a shit - something they cannot do because they are so emotionally scared from their own abuse they do not have the capacity to empathise.
Verbally both the police and the council staff are expressing deepest sympathy but also strongly recommending that I do not undertake any form of repair as they feel it will just be trashed again. I have not asked, yet feel that getting this in writing would not occur.
I need to stress that there is so much kindness out there – people are horrified and appreciative of the issue.
However also some relief that it is not them.
I have not heard back from the MP’s other than the whatever email from Ian. I have never had any feedback from DoHW.
Dear Ms XXXX
Please find attached response on behalf of Minister Harvey MLA in regard to your correspondence.
Office of the Deputy Premier; Minister for Police; Road Safety; Training and Workforce Development; Women’s Interests 11th Floor, Dumas House, 2 Havelock Street, West Perth, WA 6005
T: (08) 6552 5900 | F: (08) 6552 5901
Response by Natalie to Liza Harvey
Dear Liza Harvey
Thank you for the written reply from your office about the damage to my property at 70 Spalding Street (as attached).
It is appropriate that a response to the anti-social behaviour in Spalding is now been considered.
Yes, I was “appreciative of the information provided” by Senior Sergeant Bird and his contact.
However, no matter the genuine sympathy expressed the situation is still what it is – dire.
1. The strategies proposed, particularly any beautification of the suburb and other community based responses are going to take time, that is months to implement,
2. Such strategies will not necessarily equate to an immediate and/or future cessation of the problem,
3. None of the strategies mention specifically assist in my resolving the problem at 70 Strickland,
4. None of the proposed actions alleviates the fact that I am still living in fear every day, still sick to the stomach with worry over this problem.
As my house is not CGG property I take it to presume that the:
· “Graffiti on CGG property is to be treated as a priority task and removed immediately” – will not apply to my home?
· “Deployment of maintenance crews to immediately repair any damage to city infrastructure and property” – will not apply to my home?
Clearly while paying the mortgage, water rates, land rates, insurance and the other cost associated with the house I am still left with the need to have some sort of resolution to my immediate problem of addressing the vandalisation of the home.
1. Even if I had sufficient funds to repair the current damage what sort of assistance or guarantees is there that the house will be safe from further damage?
2. Even if I managed to get it repaired where am I going to find a real estate agent willing to manage the property ?
3. Even if both of these issues are addressed how am I going to find a tenant who will be willing to rent the property?
I am still yet to put in claim in for the last lot of damage to the insurance company because I am petrified that they will cancel my policy.
I have CC’d in other authorities in this letter as I have not had a response from either the CGG or the Department of Housing to my initial email stating the damage.
A copy of this email I sent is attached ……just in case anyone lost it.
As it now appears that state and local departments are communicating with one another, at one of your next meetings if a mutual discussion around ways of how my current circumstance can be addressed it would be appreciated.
I am not trying to be difficult (I am in desperate circumstances), I do appreciate the fact that some sort of action has been taken to address the macro issues.
I am glad that the people living the area and the suburb itself might have some sort of reprieve in the future.
However - I need some assistance as I just do not have the social support, interpersonal resources and/or the financial capacity to deal with this on my own.
For your consideration
Dear Ms XXX
The City acknowledges and thanks you for your correspondence in regard to the above matter.
Please find attached the City’s response to your email of 15 May 2016.
Should you require any further information or clarification on this matter, please contact Neryl Beer at the City on (08) 9956 6720.
Personal Assistant to the Director Development & Community Services
Everything Geraldton obtained a copy of a letter written to the Housing Authority by another resident on Strickland Street, regarding number 72, the property next door to the destroyed home.
201 Marine Tce
Geraldton WA 6530
Attention: Geraldton Regional Manager of Housing Services, XXXX
RE: 72 Strickland St, Spalding, City of Greater Geraldton
I am writing you to bring your attention to the state of the above Homeswest property.
As the owner of XX Strickland St, I have witnessed firsthand the antisocial behavior from the tenants of this property. The drinking and drug use at the front of the property has become a daily & nightly norm that has resulted in the demise of the adjoining properties as well as the Homeswest property itself.
I will not go into all the details of this antisocial behavior as I know the local police have that information on file. Please don’t tell me that the police should or are going to fix this as it’s a pattern behavior that they can’t stop. I also now realize that it’s nearly impossible to get any Homeswest tenants removed, despite a genuine need for it.
My question is: Why has the property been left in such a poor state for so long? I have been witnessing vandalism and graffiti for many months now with nothing being repaired (these are architecturally designed homes, surely they deserve at the very least to be maintained.)
The properties next to and around 72 Strickland are also being destroyed. Graffiti is everywhere in the area, evidence of drug use, property damage including house brick walls being ripped out!? (It closely resembles a 3rd world war zone!) This is directly due to the behavior of some of the H.W. tenants and along with degeneration of this particular property. I am trying very hard not to go on and on but it is all so very unacceptable and SHOCKING! Please see attached pictures.
On Wed, 4th May, I made a complaint to DHW with ‘xxxx’ (Perth) who took my details and told me I would be contacted by a representative, no one phoned back. I made another attempt one week later Wed, 11th May, and spoke to xxxx (Geraldton) who referred me to the housing authorities ‘Housing Manager’ [Redacted - not current person looking after this property], I have phoned her and left call back messages, still to this day….waiting for her reply.
We expect the graffiti covering the front walls and driveway of 72 Strickland be removed and all damaged fences, reticulation boxes, landscape, letterboxes, etc… to be repaired. We are forced to put up with your tenants unacceptable antisocial behavior but we don’t have to put up with the complete demise of government property along with our neighborhood.
I request the housing authorities ‘Housing Manager’ [Redacted - not current person looking after this property] who I’m told is responsible for this property, fulfill her job responsibilities. If she can’t then get someone who can.
Owners of: X Strickland Street, Spalding WA