By Madura McCormack
Activists in Perth will soon launch a new project to house homeless refugees in the backyards of everyday Australians.
‘GoYurt’ is ‘creative crisis accommodation’ for those in need and will raise funds to build yurts as temporary shelter for refugees and asylum seekers who find themselves without a home.
A yurt is a collapsible dome-shaped tent traditionally used by Mongolian nomads.
“Problems for asylum seekers don’t go away once they’re released from detention. It’s often just as difficult for them once they’re out in the community,” says Janet Carter, a Perth-based artist of OpenKitchen project fame and one of the founders of GoYurt.
Carter says refugees are entirely dependent on church and social welfare organisations to survive, and end up homeless as a result.
“We thought the yurts would be a great way of providing short-term help, as well as showing refugees that many Australians welcome them,” says Carter.
The GoYurt team will name the first yurt ‘Khodayar’, after the Afghani refugee who recently committed suicide while on a video call with RRAN activists Michelle Bui and Sarah Ross.
Ross and Bui were in a prototype yurt when they received the call.
The 2012 Red Cross Homelessness Census found almost 50-per-cent of asylum seekers receiving government support did not have access to long-term housing.
An Iranian refugee, who chose to remain anonymous, found himself living out of his car in Perth for a few months.
He now lives in Adelaide but says his situation has left him hopeless, alone, and emotionally drained.
The GoYurt project aims to connect refugees with the community, in order to foster a positive relationship and network.
The team intends to build its first yurt at the First Home Project, another refugee housing initiative based in Midland.
“We will start there and get people to come around … anyone can help build. It brings people in the community together,” says Cali Nathan, founder of Tamil Eelam Cricket Team and GoYurt member.
GoYurt is currently in discussion with the Fremantle Council to work out the legalities of yurt structures and having them in the backyards of host families.
Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt’s office could not comment in time for this article.