Arts & Entertainment

NAKED CITY – THE ART OF THE HOMELESS

With Coffin Ed.

Everybody loves a party but when the annual cost is around $760,000, paid for out of the public purse and strictly invite only, the celebration is definitely not universal. That’s been the case with the Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s annual knees up at the Opera House for New Year’s Eve, where last year catering alone came in at a cool $177,000. That’s a whole lot of canapes and French Champagne but sadly, for those lucky enough to be on the exclusive invite list, the party is over!

The Lord Mayor has officially pulled the plug on this annual extravaganza much to the joy of some members of the City Council, like Labor Councillor Linda Scott who has long campaigned against the event and regularly donated her own tickets to charity. However as one questionable use of public funds is quashed another raises its ugly head in the shape of the somewhat controversial giant milk crate destined for Belmore Park (aka Tent City Central).

The Lord Mayor seems intent in leaving a legacy of public art projects, that will stand long after she finally departs the Town Hall. The ‘crate’ is part of a trilogy of installations that will decorate the CBD, including a massive cloud arch outside the Town Hall, designed by UK artist Tracey Emin.

Regardless of their aesthetic appeal all these arty pieces cost a motza – the milk crate alone rumoured to run up a $9 million bill. It’s no secret that the current City Council is flush with surplus funds, but when it comes to priorities you have to question whether for example the plight of the City’s homeless comes before gigantic art works. Ironically the whopping milk crate pavilion will probably cast a shadow over the row of tents, occupied by the homeless who still occupy the perimeter of Belmore Park.

Nine million dollars could go a long way to building another hostel to accommodate the homeless, especially during the cold winter months. It could even be staffed and managed by the homeless themselves given the example of the “safe sleeping/resting place” currently situated outside a building site at the Macquarie Street end of Martin Place. Here you’ll find a twenty four hour coffee and soup kitchen as well as a dormitory of beds assigned by the organizers who include former Occupy Sydney founder Lanz Priestly.

The Martin Place crew have proved that for virtually nothing, bar a few small donations of food and money, they can look after an increasing number of homeless men and women as well as providing them with some basic nourishment, a safe place to sleep and a sense of community. Imagine what they could do if they were actually funded by the Council, who are currently doing their upmost to remove this “eyesore” from one of Sydney’s most prestigious public areas.

Maybe in another decade or more some brave Council or Government will actually try that experiment – actually empowering the homeless to look after each other, complete with funding, a degree or guidance and the provision of at least a temporary facility. In the Sydney of 2050 the only reminder of a once homeless population would be a bronze statue of a homeless man occupying the top end of Martin Place.

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