Contributed from Victoria
The violent removal of homeless people from the Flinders Street Station area was uncalled for. It is not something you would expect in Australia. We are supposed to be civilised and have a basic care for others in need.
Seems like these days are over for the Melbourne City Council, with functionaries too concerned about a cosmetic look. They ignore that the ranks of the homeless have been swelled by victims of the economic downturn and the high cost of housing. It is also true that, by and large, the existing services are stop gaps and temporary solutions. What happens next? One advantage of Flinders Street and other similar places where homeless people get together is that it helps to bring them out of their isolation and into a community, where they can begin to share stories and support each other.
A proportion of the homeless are there because of problems with substance abuse or mental health issues. The have needs too. But the services that might provide for them are inadequate and often not there at a time of crisis.
Roughly sending people packing does not solve the problem of homelessness, but moves it on to another street. This is something that comfortable officials, who do get to go to a good home every day, just don’t seem to grasp the reality. It smacks of a wish to pretend an existing problem is not there. There is more concern for appearance than people’s lives. And it pretends the jingoist call for law and order is the answer to everything.
They called in the police of force. Individuals got bashed. They were hauled away with indignity. Treated as if they were refuse and nothing more. Then those who made the order and carried out the deed, complained that some people got angry and fought back.
What the hell do they expect? Would they be less angry and less prone to fight back, if they were treated this way? The forced removal was the act of violence. Carrying on about secondary incidents tends to hide this simple little truth.
There has been quite widespread disgust over the policing action, calls for humane treatment and for action to find proper solutions. It is a good bet that many of the policed did not like what they had been called to do. But being in the police force requires its members to obey order.
The problem of homelessness can be solved by providing sufficient homes. This should be a priority. Services dealing with substance abuse and mental health must be made available and be there when needed.