\ Homeless figures up and $21 million from Millers Point sales but Dave, Jamie and Leroy in tents have other concerns – Committee For Sydney

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Homeless figures up and $21 million from Millers Point sales but Dave, Jamie and Leroy in tents have other concerns

March 1, 2015

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
Author: Tim Barlass

It is no place to spend the night. The bedding isn’t properly dry from the last downpour, there is a stove but no food and it is starting to drizzle.

The just-released Sydney homeless count shows there are 365 people sleeping rough on Sydney’s streets, 5 per cent more than last February when the figure was up 26 per cent.

But the smaller increase did not make much difference to Jamie and Leroy pitching their tents in Belmore Park opposite Central Station. Heavily tattooed Dave turns up with a guitar (plays Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Eagles and considers himself “one of the goddamn best”) and was offered tent space and bedding.

Jamie had been in the park for four months, did some drugs and has served time, he said, for defending his pregnant partner after a bloke went for her.

“I have tried to get accommodation,” he said . “It isn’t for lack of trying. We are Indigenous men. Why can’t we put a tent up on our own land? We are not asking for handouts.”

Of the other 15 or so tents in Belmore Park, he added: “You can’t trust anyone. They come and go through your stuff.”

Leroy, ironically, used to help other homeless people. He was diagnosed as a diabetic just before Christmas and has some insulin (with no fridge to keep it in) but no syringe. Belmore Park wasn’t the best place to go looking for a clean syringe.

“A few months ago I was helping people and now I can’t get anywhere to stay myself,” he said. “I am trying to get into detox but it is so hard. The waiting list is three months and that’s a long time for a drug addict.”

Homelessness NSW chief executive Katherine McKernan said the count conducted on Monday night also showed that hostels were 92 per cent full.

“The issue here is that the services are at capacity,” she said. “Even when you have got 500 hostel beds they are full and there is nowhere to move the homeless into.”

The plan was that some of that new affordable housing will be financed by the sale of the heritage-listed homes in Millers Point. The Department of Family and Community Services said that up to last week a total of $21.9 million has been raised from nine sales of homes in Millers Point.

Lord mayor Clover Moore said the latest street count confirmed more funding was needed from the state and federal governments to reduce the number of people sleeping rough in Sydney.

“We need more social and affordable housing in the inner city, not less, or Sydney’s famous egalitarianism will be destroyed. The inner city will become an enclave for the wealthy,” she toldThe Sun Herald.

Sale of inner-city property has also been questioned by Shelter, an advocacy group for housing justice, in a document outlining its 10 key issues for this month’s state election.

It stated: “These days the land on which this housing is sitting is valuable and government is selling and redeveloping some of it. This public housing, especially in inner urban areas undergoing intense gentrification, contributes to social mix. The next government must keep public housing in high-value locations to allow for a fairer distribution of housing opportunities.”

Shadow local government minister Sophie Cotsis said the property at Milers Point had been sold without any plan to build new social housing.

A summit on Sydney’s housing crisis will be held at the Sydney Town Hall in two weeks,  chaired by Committee for Sydney chief executive Tim Williams. He said more imagination was needed by the government over the use of government land.

“We have got a lot of lazy government assets,” Dr Williams said.

Family and Community Services Minister Gabrielle Upton said all proceeds from the sale of government owned properties in Millers Point would go back into providing more and better housing across the state.

“The net result is an increase in housing stock and that will have overall benefits including for many of the 60 thousand people on the waiting list. Selling the high value properties in Millers Point directly helps more people by returning many millions of dollars to the building and maintenance program,” Ms Upton said.

Tenants’ groups are organising a rally at Parliament House on March 10 calling for more money for public housing.

Read the full article online here.

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