Government retakes house from homeless

Victoria Police has evicted homeless people from empty properties in Bendigo Street, Collingwood, that had been acquired by the previous government for the now-cancelled East West Link.

The government said the homeless people had to be evicted so it could give the houses to homeless people.

These houses had been left vacant for more than seven months before homeless people moved into the properties. The occupiers had been urging the state government to put the houses on the public housing register rather than selling them  and declared they would not leave until their demands were met.

On November 2, about 40 armed police removed the occupiers from 13 Bendigo Street, while negotiations between the Homeless Persons Union of Victoria and the government were continuing.

About 30–40 protesters were there in solidarity as police blocked the street and removed the occupants, including children. One man was forcibly removed from the house by five police officers, placed in a police truck and later released.

Wilson Security is now guarding the property, valued at $1.2–$1.4 million, at a cost of $2000 a day. Whether the potential sale price of this property has anything to do with this swift eviction is yet to be seen.

There are 80,000 unoccupied homes in Victoria and 25,000 homeless people. There are currently 34,700 people waiting for public housing.

A member of the Homeless Persons Union said two of the homes have been given to the Salvation Army to house victims of domestic violence, but claimed it housed its own employees in the properties rather than allocating them to the homeless.

There have been claims in the past that the Salvation Army discriminates against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, which would make it extremely hard for them to get housing through the Salvation Army.

On November 10, the Supreme Court made orders for the eviction of all occupiers of the properties at 16, 18, 24 and 26 Bendigo Street.

When authorities will make their move is yet to be seen, but the issue of homelessness versus empty houses will not go away.

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