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Homelessness should not be criminalised

Homelessness should not be criminalised

By LIV Media

Discrimination Human Rights Justice 

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The Law Institute of Victoria has sent a letter to City of Melbourne councillors expressing its concern about by-law amendments that may subject homeless people to penalties for rough sleeping in the Melbourne CBD.

The proposed by-law change, to be voted on tonight by Melbourne City Council, would ban any type of public camping in the CBD and also make it illegal for people to leave any item unattended in public.

Moving homeless individuals from the Melbourne CBD will not solve the problems that are creating homelessness and will merely move people elsewhere, LIV president Belinda Wilson said. “People may be pushed out to areas that do not have adequate services, limiting their opportunity to access the support they need. Moving homeless people out of the CBD may also expose them to a greater risk of violence.”

While the LIV acknowledges that public spaces should be regulated to promote community health and safety, this should not be achieved through increased penalties or move-on laws that victimise some of the most vulnerable members in our community, Ms Wilson said.

The right not to have one’s home and privacy interfered with is protected by the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, and international law. The criminalisation of people living on the street also raises other human rights concerns such as discrimination or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Criminalising street camping will not solve current issues of housing affordability and other factors leading to increased homelessness. Ms Wilson said. “We endorse solutions that tackle homelessness without requiring increased move-on powers or penalties.”

“Relying on penalties and move-on powers to address issues of homelessness and poverty is ineffective and counter-productive. In the past this approach has imposed a significant burden on the courts and police, and has resulted in highly vulnerable people becoming caught up in the justice system and exacerbating the difficulties that come with homelessness and poverty.”

As the Lord Mayor recently stated, Melbourne should not be a city that pushes out homeless people, depriving them of access to services and safety.

The LIV welcomes the Victorian Government’s recent announcement of a new emergency response package to provide housing and support for rough sleepers in the Melbourne CBD, and emphasises the importance of the Government and City of Melbourne continuing to work together with support services and agencies to come up with a long term strategy and service-based solution to homelessness in Victoria.

Council will vote on the proposed by-law tonight at Swanston Hall, corner Swanston and Collins Streets.

Contact

Karin Derkley, LIV Media Advisor 

T: 03 9607 9389
M: 0413 014 902 
E: media@liv.asn.au


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