City News

No space at Martin Place


Sydney’s homeless have been displaced in droves, after being moved on from a camp at Martin Place last Saturday.

Police and City of Sydney Council workers evicted dozens of rough sleepers from the area who had been living there for months, and over time had accumulated wooden furniture, a food stall with a 24-hour soup kitchen and a huge pile of belongings stored in plastic bags and boxes.

The camp was becoming something of a permanent fixture, but every last trace was removed from the site, restoring it to its former insipid glory.

Vinnies CEO Jack de Groot said that it was vital to remember homeless people came from all walks of life.

“Homelessness hasn’t got a postcode – it doesn’t discriminate by address. Homelessness can happen to anyone, regardless of their age, gender, education level.”

“Personal circumstances can shift like quicksand. It only takes redundancy, illness or a traumatic incident to turn your life around and take away everything you once took for granted, including a home,” he said.

The St Vincent de Paul Society of NSW holds the Winter Sleepout every year to raise money for the homeless, but this year hosted a special event specifically for CEOs and community leaders to take part.

Last Friday almost 1500 prominent community leaders took part in the sleepout and raised close to $2 million for the cause.

But Mr de Groot was critical of the government’s lack of support to the issue. Only 1.6% of this year’s budget was allocated to affordable housing, which he said was key to solving the homelessness crisis.

“This budget is not the blueprint required a for long-term, financially sound social and affordable housing sector able to deliver safe, accessible and high-quality housing for the poorest,” he said.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore recently said that the council would work to provide better social housing.

“The number of people sleeping rough across our city highlights the need for multiple agencies across all levels of government to work together to provide safe and secure shelter for all – one of the most fundamental human needs,” Cr Moore said.

Community members shared their disappointment on social media.

“These people need somewhere to go.There is no work anywhere for these people, so may as well live out a little from Sydney, and have shelter and food. Basics that everyone needs,” said one user.

“I suppose the RBA suits don’t want to see this at the front door. It’s going to take a semi-trailer to remove all the stuff. Litter is at ridiculous levels,” said another.

“They provide a barebones welfare industry designed to ‘process’ those ‘less fortunate’ so they can be hidden away in ghettos and suburbs and anywhere that isn’t where the rich and wealth like to play,” said another upset poster.

According to Homelessness Australia, more than 28,000 people are homeless in NSW and more than 105,000 people are homeless across the nation.

Sydney Homeless Connect is another way that Sydneysiders are taking action and doing what they can to help those in need this winter. The event has been run at Sydney Town Hall for the last eight years.

The not-for-profit event is 100% volunteer run and is designed to provide a ‘one stop shop’ to connect people who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, with service and care providers. Free haircuts, shoes, dental and medical checks, and sessions with housing agencies are some of the goods and services offered.

In addition, Sydney Homeless Connect says that a Women’s Retreat area will be set up for women to receive a personal care pack and freely discuss the challenges they face day-to-day.

“There are many faces to homelessness, and it can affect anyone,” said a spokesperson for Sydney Homeless Connect.

“Through Sydney Homeless Connect, Sydneysiders have taken their first step towards solving this epidemic and they’re fighting the battle with compassion.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Family and Community Services said “FACS has placed 27 people previously sleeping rough in Martin Place into long-term pubic housing and another 58 social housing properties will be made available.” The spokesperson said the Department would not release details of the whereabouts or identities of people who had been given shelter.

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