With as many as 200 people sleeping rough in Melbourne’s CBD on any given night, a group calling itself Homeless Front – Stop the Suffering organised a protest outside the Smith Street office of Victorian Housing Minister Richard Wynne. Co-ordinator of the group is Richard Tate, who explained that they had been taking action for the past five months, focussing especially on the case of Simon, a homeless man with a terminal illness who has spent the last year with his dog outside Parliament Station. He said it was completely unacceptable that there should be a group of citizens in Melbourne today who are being completely ignored, and vowed to continue campaigning until Simon was properly housed.
Yarra Councillor Steve Jolley attended the protest. He also found it unbelievable that there should be people living on the street in a country such as Australia, including in the City of Yarra, and warned that the situation was set to become worse as existing housing was redeveloped, putting existing occupants on the street to make way for ‘yuppie apartments. Similarly, although it was a good thing that the Government was putting money into public housing, looked at more closely it became clear that the developers were the ones who were going to profit. And for example, the Carlton public housing estate would have a wall separating the public and private sections, to preserve private property values. He also drew attention to the effects recent local law changes had had on the Aboriginal people who were accustomed to meet in Smith Street: driven away from their support networks many had now been evicted from their housing and had become homeless.
The group had prepared a letter for the Minister, which a staffer agreed to deliver, carefully locking the door behind him, an action which drew expressions of disgust. As one remarked, ‘He [the Minister] doesn’t deserve to be in office.’
The same night there was to be a “Women’s Car Sleepout” to highlight the increasing problem of homelessness specifically among women, to be followed by a breakfast and media conference the following morning. Details on http://womens.thebigissue.org.au/carsleepout/