A public debate has erupted over a decision by Moreland council, in Melbourne’s inner-north, to install armrests on benches outside Coburg Library.
Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) campaign coordinator Pas Forgione outlined why a campaign to “Raise the rate” of the Newstart unemployment benefit is desperately needed, at a June 15 community forum in Sydney’s west.
Statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Stastics on July 24 show 28,600 or 16.5% of people experiencing homelessness in Australia have full-time jobs.
The figures also show more than one-third of homeless people aged over 15 are employed in some capacity.
A total of 61,500 people are employed in some way, but their wages do not pay enough to put a roof over their head.
Nearly half the homeless population — 45.6% — is either in work or looking for work, and the unemployment rate for people experiencing homelessness is 22.5%.
After more than six months camped outside the Reserve Bank building in Martin Place, and following months of negotiations between the state government and the City of Sydney Council, the homeless occupants of Sydney’s tent city began packing up their belongings on August 11.
The man often called the “Mayor of Martin Place”, Lanz Priestley, said some camp dwellers were moving to “friend’s places” or “friend’s backyards”, but some “don’t have anywhere to go”.
Last week was Homelessness Week. It was also the week when the 76 homeless people sleeping in Martin Place were removed by the NSW Coalition government.
Sydney City Council has, at least, defended the “tent city” and taken a more pro-active role in trying to find solutions, compared with the NSW government which simply wants to wash its hands of this enormous problem.
Homelessness is a growing problem in Australia.
Laws prohibiting the homeless from sleeping, eating, soliciting, or, let’s face it, being seen in public, are older than most modern institutions.
There have been destructive attacks on the homeless in the past year in Melbourne, but the vitriolic hate campaign and physical attacks on the street, and on squatters, has reached a deadly level: murder.
Just before midnight on March 1, a cowardly arson attack set off a blazing fire at Kinnear’s rope factory in Footscray, which took 40 minutes for the fire brigade to control. Three squatters were tragically killed: Tanya Burmeister and her 15- year-old daughter Zoe were among the dead.
A protest was held on February 18 in response to the City of Melbourne’s proposed by-law amendments that ban any form of public camping and make it easier for the confiscation of unattended property — essentially criminalising rough sleepers in the streets of Melbourne.
1. People choose to be homeless
By “banning” homelessness, Melbourne City Council is implying it is a “choice”. Homelessness is usually the cause of a range of interconnected factors, some of which include poverty, unemployment and family violence. There is also a shortage of affordable housing and jobs that pay a living wage.