BY LUCAS BAIRD.
While the focus at Wentworth Park lately has been squarely on the under siege Greyhound Racing Industry, there is another oft-forgotten community feeling vulnerable.
The homeless who have stationed themselves underneath the Wentworth Park arches believe that the removal of the racing track and the temporary placement of Ultimo school children at the park leave them under threat.
The homeless community in Wentworth Park have lived under the arches for many years in tents, and have previously been the subject of pushes to “cleanse” the park of the less fortunate.
De facto leader of the community, ‘Uncle’ Neil has fears for the future of the community.
He told City Hub that he believes that the City of Sydney will soon look to evict the community as the City looks to “sweep all the homeless under the carpet”.
He said he believed that despite the council making appearances to show support for the community, the City wants them out and new projects at the park will give them the justification they need.
He said that the City has increased the number and severity of checks it does, confiscating items that extend beyond their tents like chairs and gas cookers.
A City of Sydney Spokesperson told City Hub that the Council does in fact take these items from the community because they block areas for public use and pose danger to the public using the park.
Neil described these justifications as “rubbish” pointing out that the chairs and cookers they use remain close to the tents and under the arches which the public rarely ever use.
The City’s spokesperson also pointed out that the homeless at Wentworth Park are not their responsibility but are the NSW government’s and they help nonetheless.
“City staff visit Wentworth Park regularly to link people who are sleeping rough with support services and work with people in the park to maintain the amenity for all park users,” they said.
“The City follows the guidelines of the NSW Homeless protocol for Homeless People in Public Places. The Protocol acknowledges that, like all other members of the public, people experiencing homelessness have a right to be in public places and to participate in public events, at the same time respecting the right of local communities to live in a safe and peaceful environment.”
“City staff will continue to follow these guidelines as Wentworth Park undergoes changes in the future.”
However, Neil remains uncertain of what the future holds for the community. He said that Council do not understand their needs and want them out of the park.
The council has denied this, claiming that they have never asked the homeless at Wentworth Park to move on and that “no one will be asked to move on or be denied entry to the park at any stage”.
However, this is at odds with one council worker; who said that they were given instructions to remove members of the community from the park in February last year.
The community has also faced scrutiny from the Ultimo Public School P and C, who feel uncomfortable with the community so close to the school’s temporary location.
They attempted to tell the NSW Government that they were uncomfortable with the homeless community’s proximity to the temporary site but their concerns were dismissed because the demountables will be set down on the opposite side of the park.
The Ultimo Public School P and C told City Hub that they are not happy with this decision because it is “a quick walk from the camps to the demountable sites”.