Squatters occupying inner-Melbourne homes compulsorily acquired for the dumped East West Link road project have been spared eviction for another three weeks after coming to an agreement with the Victorian Government.
About 50 homeless people have been living in the state-owned properties on Collingwood’s Bendigo Street and in Parkville earmarked for lease by the Salvation Army to victims of domestic violence.
They were granted a Supreme Court injunction last week preventing them from being forcibly removed after they were issued with eviction notices.
The group has now come to an agreement with the State Government allowing them to remain at the properties for another three weeks so they can continue to search for housing.
Lawyer Megan Fitzgerald from the Fitzroy Legal Service said five women and seven children had already been offered housing.
“There’s a number of residents who still need to engage with housing support workers and with the department to assess their need,” she said.
“We expect that a number of those will also be considered [a] priority as they’ve simply fallen through the gaps of the system.”
Uncertainty over action after deadline
Ms Fitzgerald said the State Government had been very proactive in assisting the homeless people and she expected more would be housed before the three-week deadline.
It is unclear whether those who are not housed at the end of the three week deadline will leave of their own accord.
Spike Chiappalone from the Homeless Persons Union said he was happy families had been able to access housing but the Government needed a clear plan for the future.
“We still need to see a plan for the 25,000 homeless people in Victoria,” he said.
“We’ve still seen no plan by the State Government to deal with those issues and we’re still looking for transparency and accountability on what’s happening with empty public housing in Victoria.”
The matter is not expected to return to court.
By Emma Younger – ABC NEWS online
Homelessness is more than just sleeping rough. It’s a circumstance that affects around 22,000 Victorians on any given night. And with more than 32,000 Victorians on the public housing waiting list, members of Homeless Persons Union Victoria (HPUV) are pushing for solutions.
The Homelessness can happen to anyone Q&A event was hosted by HPUV at the Richmond Town Hall earlier in the month. It brought together a varied panel of experts, including academics, current and former homeless individuals and activists, to discuss the growing problem of homelessness.
The panel discussion was led by Joel Byron and Spike, two founding members of HPUV, with a focus on challenging perceptions beyond media headlines.
“Media representations of homeless people are going unchallenged,” says Spike. “The media isn’t the be-all and end-all of where information comes from. They don’t investigate the lack of funding in public housing or the causal factors of homelessness. They take snapshots of people at their worst moments and that is a real problem as far as we’re concerned.”
Panelist and media analyst, Catherine Beadnell, agrees that “it’s important to put pressure on [the media] to take a more humane and investigative approach to homelessness. [However], because [the media] doesn’t operate in an economic imperative they’re not really interested in exploring that.”
RMIT Associate professor, Guy Johnson, also took part in the discussion, highlighting the biggest protective factor against homelessness is not services, but public housing.
“We’re talking about an issue that is so important, but is just blatantly ignored by politicians from both sides, and now public housing is dead.”
Policy change has seen a decrease in available public housing over the last decade, which Johnson says has contributed to the rise in homelessness.
“The best protection against homelessness is the thing that there is no policy attention on.”
The factors associated with homelessness are wide ranging and can include domestic violence, mental health issues, and substance abuse problems.
Although providing stable accomodation may not immediately erase all associated factors, it certainly will address the problem of homelessness itself.
“You put a homeless person in an empty house … problem solved.” says a member of HPUV currently experiencing homelessness.
In an immersive discussion between the panel and the audience, additional topics on the night included the importance of campaigning for public housing, distribution of resources, the issue of access to public amenities and safe injecting rooms, the role of homelessness services, harm reduction funding and substance use.
For more information on the Homeless Persons Union Victoria or to join the union visit their Facebook page.
By Roxanne Fitzgerald – Yarra Reporter
A Homeless Persons Union Victoria event
An immersive community experience exploring issues and challenging stereotypes about homelessness
Hear from speakers with a lived experience of homelessness, homelessness academics, homeless(ness) activists, homeless legal workers, homeless media analysts and harm reduction workers
Special guests include: Chris Chamberlain (RMIT), Guy Johnson (RMIT), Lucy Adams (Justice Connect Homeless Law), Jenny Kelsall (Harm Reduction Victoria)
Friday August 5th 2016
6:30PM – 8:30PM
Richmond Town Hall
333 Bridge Road, Richmond