Homeless – in the most livable city in the world

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homeless camp City Square Friday Forum
Your views on the news

Homelessness has been in the news this week following a Herald Sun report that claimed “aggressive beggars” are “jeopardising Melbourne’s reputation”.

In Melbourne’s City Square, a group of homeless people has created a makeshift shelter in response to rising hostility from the public. The temporary campsite is built underneath a tree using crates, tarps and cardboard boxes. It is decorated with peace signs and placards saying ‘Dry Zone – no drugs, no alcohol, no disrespect’ and ‘the homeless are people too’.

The placards challenge the labels often associated with homeless people. In some media narratives, the individual is blamed for their homelessness. They are cast as ‘drug addicts’ or ‘violent criminals’ who are not deserving of charity.

People who experience a negative encounter with one homeless person may also translate their unconscious bias to all homeless people.

camp homeless

John, one of the men at the campsite, told Crosslight they want to challenge negative stereotypes about homeless people.

“We’re being harassed just for sitting down. We’re trying to be peaceful, we’re trying to keep to ourselves. We’re not being violent or harassing anyone and yet we are being treated the same as people who are violent,” he said.

“The council has been trying to get us homeless people to move on, but we’ve got nowhere to go.”

According to the latest data, there are more than 140 people sleeping on the streets of Melbourne’s CBD every night. John said recent news reports have led to an increased crackdown from the police and Melbourne City Council.

“It’s definitely gotten worse. Personally, I never had any problems before the articles were written. Since those articles came up, it’s just made my life so much more difficult,” he said.

“Beforehand, we were just allowed to sit on the side of the road and keep quiet and not do anything. Now, we can’t even sit in front of abandoned stores.”

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Another sign outside the camp – ‘shelter is a human right’ – reflects on society’s role in caring for the most vulnerable members of society. Many people are too embarrassed to make eye contact, let alone start a conversation, with a homeless person. Every person who sleeps on the streets has a unique story, but most people do not want to hear them.

The men at the campsite said they are not looking for donations or charity – they just want a home. They hope they can make their voices heard and share their stories with the public.

“People have been coming by, stopping, taking photos, actually talking to us – so there’s been some positives,” John said.

“But there’s also been some negatives, with people abusing us and calling us junkies.

“It’ll be good if we can get a place to live, but realistically if we could just get the harassment to stop, that’d be enough.”

On this week’s Friday Forum, we ask:

Do we have a collective responsibility to look after the most marginalised members of society?

homeless are people

 

 

 

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