Contributed from New South Wales
Heavy handed policing was used last Saturday to remove homeless people who had been sleeping in a camp, under the former Westpac building, opposite the Reserve Bank headquarters at Sydney’s Martin Place.
The camp’s inhabitants had been there for months. The clear out was an imitation of similar action taken against the homeless by the Melbourne City Council last year.
The City of Sydney has deemed the camp to be a “public nuisance”.
The homeless received a letter, explaining how to remove personal items and containing a list of contacts for homeless services. It took no account that in real world, the homeless have nowhere to go.The rising numbers of people coming in for accommodation means that homeless services are stretched to the limit and cannot cope with the demand. The letter was signed by David Riordan, director of city operations.
The real problem is that the camp had been set up at a Lend Lease site, which was conformed in a subsequent media statement from the council. A company representative came to the site before the removal and has been reported to have failed to talk to the homeless. People on the scene suspect that Lend Lease initiated the process that led to the eviction.
The council has condescendingly and falsely said that,
“There are multiple organisations and charities already operating in the local area providing food to people experiencing homelessness. There is no shortage of food suppliers to support people sleeping rough.”
Dump trucks, police and council workers moved in early in the morning, to forcefully evict the inhabitants and collect belongings left behind.
The heavy handed action has not impressed those who were targeted and has been widely condemned. Thew camp has gone from the Lend Lease site and set up on the other side of Martin Place, at the front of the Reserve Bank.
Homelessness is a growing problem in Australia. Every city has seen an explosion in the number of people forced to sleep out, because affordable housing is out of their grasp.
To date, the preferred response by all levels of government has been to sweep it under the carpet and shift it along, rather than work towards solutions. Unless there is adequate housing, homelessness is set to rise even further.
This is unnecessary, especially in cities where speculation has led to the existence of many unoccupied dwellings. There is a good reason why these should be made available. The alternative is for the government to either build new homes or provide a sufficient income to enter the housing market.
This is not been done, because there has been an obsession with non interference in the market. There has been something of a reality check , and it is being admitted that something has to be done about housing affordability. Unfortunately, the homeless have been largely left out of the debate.
Meanwhile, the homeless have nowhere to go. Moving them form one place, means that they will have to set up somewhere else, and they will strive to build their own little communities, near where they can access their needs. Who can blame them?