Regular visitors to the Melbourne CBD would have noticed that the homelessness protest at City Square has ended.
A compliance order issued by the City of Melbourne earlier this week asked the protestors to collect their belongings and move away from the square. The council has also installed plants at the former campsite.
But while the protestors may have disbanded, the problem of homelessness has not disappeared.
A StreetCount survey conducted on Tuesday revealed that 247 homeless men and women are sleeping on the streets of the Melbourne CBD, a 74 per cent increase from two years ago. This figure most likely underestimates the total number of rough sleepers in Melbourne, as the volunteers did not venture into locations such as Docklands, Royal Park and the Botanical Gardens.
When Crosslight spoke to some of the homeless protestors at City Square, they called for permanent and secure housing. Many homeless people move from one temporary shelter to another, with no pathway to long-term accommodation. 68 per cent of those surveyed by StreetCount had been homeless for more than a year.
Homelessness is a complex issue and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said a key step towards addressing homelessness is to disrupt the drivers of homelessness, such as mental illness, family violence and housing affordability.
Community organisation Launch Housing has called for an empty property tax to make housing more affordable and accessible. There are currently more than 80,000 vacant houses throughout Victoria. At the same time, an estimated 32,500 people are on the Victoria public housing waiting list as of last December.
The City Square protestors believe addressing homelessness begins with listening to the voices of people who have actually experienced homelessness. The opinions of homeless people are rarely heard in the public sphere and policies are often formulated without their input. As a result, homeless people often have to bear the consequences of poor policies formed with good intentions.
On this week’s Friday Forum, we ask:
How do we begin to address the growing issue of homelessness in Victoria?