Since 2014, the number of people sleeping rough in the City of Melbourne has increased by 74%. In response to this increase (and in the face of heavy negative media coverage throughout January 2017) the City of Melbourne proposed changes to the Local Law via the Activities (Public Amenity and Security) Local Law 2017.
Key aspects of the proposed changes were:
The proposed ban on camping was extremely broad and would have effectively made it an offence to sleep on the streets (noting that ‘camp’ was not defined).
When people live their lives in public spaces, leaving belongings can be unavoidable. If someone needs to leave their goods out temporarily (while they go to the toilet, for example), they may need to pay a fee to get them back. That’s unfair to place on people who can’t afford it.
We teamed up with law firms, community groups and homelessness services to tell the City of Melbourne that we can’t arrest our way out of homelessness. Don’t criminalise homelessness, because criminalisation is not the answer. Through our submissions, we showed that there are better ways to improve the problem of homelessness in our city: ways that are effective, impactful and make a positive difference in people’s lives.
Working together, we put the pressure on the government to abandon the harsh, unfair proposed laws. Together, we stopped homelessness being criminalised in our city. There’s still more work to do to change unfair laws that affect people facing homelessness. Our campaign showed us that when we take a stand, we can have a real impact.