Rough sleepers, homeless under attack in Sydney

Issue 
Rough sleepers under the viaduct in Sydney's Wentworth Park.

Rough sleepers in Sydney are under attack from the NSW government. Many have had their possessions removed from their usual sleeping places at the same time as funding for refuges is being cut.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on February 11 that people's tents and other possessions at Wentworth Park were removed after complaints from local residents. Council workers removed 17 tents, 14 chairs, two refrigerators and a gas burner and placed them in storage.

One rough sleeper told Green Left Weekly the council told them their space “needed to be clean”.

He said the council regularly removed their belongings if they considered their makeshift living areas under the viaduct in Wentworth Park Tunnel to be unclean or dirty.

“I always keep my belongings clean now, but if anyone comes with their things and it is not clean enough, the council will come and take it away.” He said the council told them any tents found there would be dismantled.

He has been waiting for housing for a year. “They gave me shared accommodation but there were many dangerous people there and I didn’t feel safe. So I have come here instead,” he said.

New tents have sprung up in Belmore Park near Central, and there are fears among the rough sleepers that they will be moved along by the council as well.

According to the City of Sydney Street Count, there has been a 16% rise in the number of homeless people since last year, with an increasing number of those homeless being women and children who have faced domestic violence. This is made worse by the NSW government privatising public housing and defunding women's refuges.

These attacks on the homeless come amid pleas to Minister for Social Services Scott Morrison nationally from Homelessness Australia to continue to fund services in the May budget.

“We cannot negotiate with our staff whose contracts soon expire,” Homeless Australia said in an open letter to the government. “We cannot tell clients that the programs they have relied on will continue. We must carefully deliberate whether to accept new clients into those programs which have a long-term delivery model.

“Women and children fleeing domestic violence, young people who can’t stay with their families and long-term rough sleepers looking for a bed for the night are all affected by the lack of certainty that a one-year funding cycle creates.”

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