Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Martin Place homeless camp remains intact

A report this morning that the Martin Place tent city would be dismantled "as early as Tuesday morning" turned out to be premature. At lunchtime the camp was still all there, although the media, I was told when I went up there this morning, had been around since 2am. At 11.30 there were still TV trucks from Channel Nine, Channel Seven and the ABC parked nearby and I saw a reporter getting ready to shoot a segment just as I headed back down the hill to get some lunch.

There were also a half-dozen or so NSW government employees wearing badged jackets moving between the tents and the kitchen, and talking to people next to tables and chairs that had been set up on the pavement nearby.

Lanz Priestley, who is a spokesperson for camp residents, said that people from the Department of Family and Community Services come to Martin Place on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but that there are people in the camp who are not eligible for housing support. He said that the department had placed 70 people in permanent accommodation over a period of eight months.

He added that the camp in Martin Place was just the most visible aspect of the homelessness problem in Sydney, and one that gets the most attention. "It's a much bigger problem," he said.

"Everyone expected the trucks," said city councillor Angela Vithoulkas, who is seen standing in the photo below, on the left, with Priestley on the right.

"You look like you're in remarkably good spirits," Vithoulkas told Priestley, who said he was "optimistic". Vithoulkas said that the agreement that the lord mayor, Clover Moore, had made with the NSW government the day before was "very ambiguous". "We don't know what the agreement was," she said. "For two hours we asked questions last night and there were no answers."

No-one at the camp this morning knew where the lord mayor intended to move residents to. "Unless people want to use it it won't get used," warned Priestley. "The city has a lot of property," said Vithoulkas, adding that she wanted to invite him to visit the council to talk with councillors.

"I'm going to make your council visit happen and very soon," Vithoulkas told him.

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