Melbourne Homeless Ban ‘By No Means Decided’
23 January 2017 at 4:22 pm
It appears the City of Melbourne has backflipped on its proposed ban on rough sleeping in the CBD, following crisis talks with local homelessness agencies.
Last Friday it was widely reported that Lord Mayor Robert Doyle was to propose a bylaw at the next council meeting – to be held this week – outlawing people sleeping rough.
“I am happy to put this proposal before councillors at our first meeting if it is Victoria Police’s recommendation, and they guarantee that they will enforce it,” Doyle told News Corp.
“Police already have powers to arrest for obstruction, for drug use, for threatening or aggressive behaviour, and for begging, and I would like to see them make full use of those powers as well.
“I welcome any move by police to bring an end to what has become a blight on our city, and the City of Melbourne continues to work with them to do that.”
On the same day the leaders of Council to Homeless Persons, Justice Connect Homeless Law, Launch Housing, Melbourne City Mission, The Salvation Army Victoria and VincentCare said they were “dismayed” by the reports and called for the government to collaborate with the sector.
On Monday the group held a crisis meeting with the City of Melbourne and Victoria Police.
Launch Housing deputy CEO Heather Holst told Pro Bono News that the outcome was more positive than expected.
“There was quite a bit of discussion about [reports] last week of a change to the law around… sleeping rough, and that’s by no means decided apparently, so that’s good,” Holst said.
“And there’s going to be input from the sector on how any redraft happens, specifically from Justice Connect Homeless Law.
“It was really quite a lot about how we could intensify the effort around solving homelessness for the people who are stuck at the moment.
“What was heartening was the talk about working more tightly together and the necessary things to solve homelessness because it was pretty well recognised that you can’t legislate against homelessness, that’s not what’s going on.”
She said the City of Melbourne’s main concern was “the build up of goods that are obstructing paths in the city”.
Council to Homeless Persons acting CEO Kate Colvin also told Fairfax that any proposed change to bylaws was likely to focus on that issue alone.
“Our understanding is that in fact the lord mayor is not imposing move-on powers, or introducing summary offences to criminalise homelessness,” Colvin said.
“The lord mayor has concerns about mattresses and other bulky items being present on the streets. He’s looking at bylaws to resolve that particular problem – potentially enabling council officers to remove those belongings.
“We only read in the paper on Friday there was a plan to introduce move-on laws. The lord mayor asserts that there wasn’t. Whether that’s a change of heart or not, that’s a question for the lord mayor.”
Holst said banning rough sleeping in the CBD would impact people experiencing homelessness and reduce the effectiveness of community services organisations.
“It’s further pushing people away from the mainstream, which is a very bad thing to do to someone already very down on their luck,” she said.
“It would make it harder to work with people, for them to find us and us to find them. Some of the practicalities of engagement will be harder.
“If there are fines or any sort of sanctions, incurring debts will make it harder to get back into proper housing.”
The issue has become increasingly controversial in Melbourne since council officers and police allegedly moved camps of homeless people out of the CBD for the Australian Open.