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Homeless Agencies Reject Move to Make Camping Illegal in CBD

7 February 2017 at 8:33 am
Lina Caneva
Homelessness agencies have called on Melbourne City councillors to reject proposed “anti- camping” laws that the not-for-profit organisations say have failed elsewhere.

Lina Caneva | 7 February 2017 at 8:33 am


Homeless Agencies Reject Move to Make Camping Illegal in CBD
7 February 2017 at 8:33 am

Homelessness agencies have called on Melbourne City councillors to reject proposed “anti- camping” laws that the not-for-profit organisations say have failed elsewhere.

In a joint statement from Council to Homeless Persons, Launch Housing, Melbourne City Mission, The Salvation Army, VincentCare and Justice Connect Homeless Law, the organisations said they rejected council plans to make rough sleeping illegal by outlawing camping in the CBD.

“We are concerned the proposed amendments to by-laws to be discussed by the City of Melbourne on Tuesday will compound the vulnerability of already vulnerable citizens, while not reducing the numbers of people sleeping rough,” the statement said.

The proposed amendment to clause 2.8 of the City of Melbourne Activities Local Law 2009 says: “unless in accordance with a permit, a person must not camp in or on any public place”.

“The City of Melbourne has also proposed amendments to insert a new provision clause 2.12 into the local law to bar people from leaving items unattended in a public place. It would allow for belongings to be confiscated and impounded and then sold, destroyed or given away unless a fee is paid within 14 days,” the statement said.

“These reforms will enable police and council officers to require people sleeping in the street to move on, forcing people who are already extremely vulnerable into more hidden, and consequently more unsafe corners of our city.

“This will expose them to greater risk of assault, and will make it more difficult for homeless services to locate and engage people to support them into housing.”

The organisations said that other cities, such as Los Angeles had previously enacted similar laws empowering police to move people on for sitting or sleeping on the street.

“Despite these laws, and considerable cost expended enforcing the provisions, at least 5,000 people still sleep in the 50-block central city area. The laws in Los Angeles had so little effect because the drivers of homelessness remain unaddressed. Like Melbourne, Los Angeles lacks housing that people on low incomes can afford,” the statement said.

“The City of Melbourne has had a very positive record working constructively with services and police to manage the humanitarian crisis on our streets in a way that considers public safety. The Victorian government has also made a series of funding commitments to address homelessness over the past year.

“However, the housing crisis has been created by decades of state and federal governments failing to address the growing crisis in affordable housing, both in private rental and social housing, and will take a sustained effort to turn around.”

The organisations said that the only solution was for state and federal governments to join together to tackle the housing crisis that “underlies our homelessness epidemic”.

“In the short term the most effective solution to prevent and respond to growing homelessness in our community would be the immediate spot purchase of new public housing,” they said.

“We urge councillors to focus council efforts on maximising the City of Melbourne’s own capacity to deliver housing opportunities, and on advocacy for state and federal governments to address the housing crisis.”

Last month, the Lord Mayor held crisis talks with homelessness agencies in which he indicated that a ban on rough sleeping may not be necessary.

However clashes with police and protesters last week, when police tried to move people living on the street around Flinders Street Station, resulted in renewed calls for changes to council by-laws.

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.


  • core says:

    I don’t see nothing ethically wrong in moving them away from public areas, the public don’t really want them there. They have no rights to claim public property, they should get a real job, or move to the country and get any job. Welfare recipients should be drug tested and failing that welfare should be suspended – public should not have to pay for self-delusional left wing drug-taking snowflakes that think they are Jesus.

    • Margaret says:

      Core, through no fault of their own their lives have become fractured – violence in the family home as a child, abuse in their lives, parents not coping, mental illness not picked up as a child or teenager, the list goes on. We are a very lucky county and we must provide low cost housing, mental health care in hospitals and community, legal aid services, funding for organisation who support the most vulnerable. If you did not have a home Core and perhaps thought you were Jesus because your brain was not functioning as it should, where would you sleep at night, who would employ you, what would you eat, would you be safe. Think about a life you might have had.

  • jemmi says:

    Homelessness takes many faces. For all of us, homelessness is just around the corner, it may be something you could have avoided or it may have been thrust upon you, and you have not been strong enough to do the massive fight to get above it. If we become ill, or mentally ill, or lose our job, or our profession simply becomes extinct, like those thousand plus people working in the car industry who are decent people, who have worked hard, have mortgages, rent, are raising children and so forth. How will these average incomers find their way, when their job loss is not their fault? “People in glass houses should not throw stones”, a rhyme I learnt as a child, which has a lot of substance.
    We could all be that person sleeping in the city!
    There are a few layers to poverty and yes, there are a minority that choose their life, and do not care, but in the scheme of things, most people want the warmth and security of a home.
    If we are going to move people out, which I believe, does have its merits, then where are the shelters to provide alternatives. Having being born and raised in the city I have seen the increase everywhere. It is also the right of all citizens to feel safe and many do not because with a homeless village there are drugs, alcohol, fights and crime, so clean it up, but provide options for people that are sustainable and focus on stepping out of the poverty cycle. It is very easy for people to remain in the cycle of poverty, because they do not see a future.
    Not everyone who is homeless has had a choice, with raising rents, lack of permanent full-time employment, opportunity, support systems and the increase of mental health problems, there are those who want the life of an average Australian, but need help to do so.

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