The following has been put out by online activist group change.org, in response to the Melbourne City Council intention to adopt anew by-law that will ban homeless people from the city. This has drawn widespread condemnation from welfare organisations and others, who see this as a heartless act designed to hide the problem of homelessness, rather than doing something to help those in need. Those who disagree with the by-law are asked to sign the Change.org petition, via https://www.change.org/p/robert-doyle-stop-propose-ban-on-sleeping-rough-in-city
Following calls by Victoria Police Chief Commissioner, Graham Ashton, Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Robert Doyle, in a stunning change of stance, will propose to Melbourne City Councillors next week that new by-laws be introduced making it illegal to sleep in Melbourne CDB’s public spaces.
The call comes on the back of Mr. Ashton calling the Flinders St homeless encampment ‘disgusting’ and a ‘very ugly sight’. Mr Ashton has also contributed to an ongoing narrative which de-legitimises homelessness by accusing rough sleepers as ‘fakers’ who are only trying to cash in on visitors to the Australian Open tennis tournament.
Premier Daniel Andrews has weighed in, claiming those sleeping on the footpath on Flinders St have all been offered accommodation. What he neglects to say is that what has been offered is up to three months crisis accommodation, facilities which have the air of institutionalisation, which are largely run by tax-exempt faith-based organisations, and where rents are in the vicinity of $200 a week. They are also often dangerous places where traumatised people cannot begin to address their issues. Mr Andrews fails yet again to commit to the dire need for long-term, affordable public housing where people can rebuild their lives in independence and dignity.
Speaking to the press, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle appeared relieved with the call from Victoria Police. Mr. Doyle had previously stated that further police powers would only shift people away to other areas, thereby not fixing the issue, but that what people experiencing homelessness needed was to be connected to services.
The introduction of these proposed by-laws will only push already vulnerable people into the criminal justice system, with mounting fines and possible jail time. By moving people out of high-traffic areas, the proposed by-laws will also take away the political expression of those experiencing homelessness, who in their act of rough sleeping are saying ‘I have a right to share public space. I have nowhere better to go’.
What CBD rough sleepers need is an understanding from all members of the Melbourne community that secure, affordable housing is an important answer to addressing homelessness, along with well-funded support services so they can begin to re-build their lives. People experiencing homelessness are being blamed for the policy failures of both state and federal governments over a long period of time. The last thing they need is to be criminalised even further and be subjected to ongoing vilification from certain mainstream media empires.
Show your opposition to these proposed by-laws by signing this petition. Let Melbourne City Councillors know that you want humane responses to the homelessness crisis, not punitive measures. Let us not go the way of many cities and districts in the USA which have implemented such laws. Such creeping laws impact on all our human rights. Join us in saying no.