Activism for Aussies: Homeless in Melbourne

This week, we’re talking about the Homeless Ban in the City of Melbourne, where a proposal has been put forward to basically ban people from sleeping in the CBD. It’s an ongoing part of Melbourne’s campaign against homeless people (rather than homelessness). Beneath the fold we’ve got further reading and some action points.

If you spend any time in the Melbourne CBD, you’ll have noticed the massive number of people sleeping on the streets these days. It seems to have increased from “some people” to “a lot”, and is the source of much grumbling in high rise offices (source: eavesdropping on elevator chat in a high rise office). How dare people be poor and have nowhere to go!

Here’s an article from last year: The homelessness crisis gripping Melbourne

This is clearly a crisis. Lots of people need help, whether that’s just a place to live, or a place to live accompanied by some other assistance.

So, of course, the Melbourne City Council decided to, um, ban homelessness. Sorry, “public camping”.

Fiery meeting on homeless: Melbourne councillors back proposal to ban camping

Homeless woman’s heartfelt plea for those adrift and alone on Melbourne’s streets

Homeless camp crackdown won’t fix the problem, state government’s new adviser warns

Justice Connect explains the impacts of the ban here. In summary, the ban on “public camping” expands the definition of “camping” to encompass rough sleeping, and also introduces a provision whereby a homeless person’s unattended possessions can be confiscated. Fines of nearly $400 will be introduced for both “public campers” and people whose goods have been taken.

This being Melbourne, there was naturally a fancy art protest. Before you get worried, it was actually run by people directly impacted by the ban, that is, people who sleep rough in Melbourne’s CBD.

White Night Melbourne: activists hijack projection to protest against rough sleeping laws

White Night Melbourne: spontaneous moments stand out on night of unsettling ironies

Lovely photo essay of the protest.

What you can do about it

Complete this survey administered by the City of Melbourne.

Make a formal submission against the amendment before Friday 17 March.

Have a conversation or three with someone. Ask if you can help them out with a blanket or a hot cup of tea, or even just a conversation. Melbourne’s rough sleepers are people just like you and No Award (all members of No Award have skirted close to rough sleeping in their lives, though not for some years).

And here’s something you shouldn’t do: organise a protest that actively impedes the ability of social services to do their jobs.

Further Reading

So totally unrelated (spoilers it is related), Melbourne is an awful city to rent in. Renters have little security, put up with a lot and fear eviction: survey