Christ it’s a shitty start to the year for Melbourne’s homeless folk.
First, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle signalled new proposals in late January that would ban people from sleeping in certain areas, adding, creepily, that he’d “welcome any move by police to bring an end to what has become a blight on our city.”
After a few moments of hope, such as the City Council shifting focus to obstructive items such as mattresses and a $9.8 million housing program from the State Government, we got a shitload of cops breaking up the camps at Flinders St in the first week of February.
And today, after a 5-4 vote held this morning, the council announced that nah, they will effectively ban sleeping outdoors as part of an amendment to the Activities Local Law 2009. Don’t fret though: it won’t be done by actively arresting homeless people, as the initial proposal threatened to do, but by just giving police and council officers the power to hold take their stuff and hold it to ransom.
Tonight, the folks at ‘The Project‘ had a crack at asking Doyle what the new rules actually mean for homeless people, and it was just as excruciating and filled with doublespeak as you’d imagine.
Doyle began by stressing that none of this makes homelessness illegal, adding that the focus is on bulky objects like mattresses and that, as a concession, people enforcing the new by-law will be accompanied with outreach workers:
“It is not illegal, y’know we had the choice to go down that track, so it was an arrest provision. I chose not to do that, so we will bring with us housing providers, drug and alcohol providers, the people who can actually help a pathway out of homelessness.”
“Forget the illegality, it’s not illegal…The first call is always to say, please move. This isn’t punitive, it doesn’t criminalise people, it doesn’t demonise people, it offers help when it is available to them.”
However, the team were quick to ask, point blank, whether people who don’t acquiesce to the very kind “go away” system would be fined, which, y’know, effectively does ban homelessness.
Doyle, for obvious reasons, was keen to work around this, and spun it as a “silly question” three times, focusing on initially trying to help people and the complexity of homelessness before admitting that sure, “in the end, there are provisions for people to be fined.”
— Russell Hayward (@russelljh) February 8, 2017
He then tried to put the focus back on the “very simplistic question to a very complex problem,” and, without much evidence to go on, flat-out told Waleed Aly he doesn’t think the guy understands how complicated the situation is. Because god forbid the actual point of the new by-laws be discussed.
When called out on how disingenuous it is is flaunt how progressive the reforms are when they ultimately do fine people for the result of being homeless (i.e. your stuff will be with you on the street), Doyle basically says he never claimed otherwise and that “there will be consequences.”
Give the rather painful, aggressive interview a squiz below.
— #TheProjectTV (@theprojecttv) February 8, 2017
Source and photo: The Project.