With developers and other groups claiming land to create residential, commercial or public spaces, is there room for everyone?
Hosier lane in Melbourne’s CBD is a huge tourist attraction for its bars and world renowned street art. It’s also home to the only free medical clinic for the homeless in the CBD, The Living Room. The service uses the lane to make the homeless feel welcome. Laneway cricket, football, BBQs etc operate alongside high end boutiques, restaurants and businesses, yet they co-exist peacefully.
But like any part of the CBD it is constantly changing and there are redevelopments happening all around. Organisers are concerned that this will have an impact on their ability to provide such an inclusive space for the more disadvantaged of local residents.
Melanie Raymond, Chair of the Living Room services explains: ‘A large majority of our clients will eat only one meal a day, and many are now choosing between mobile phone credit and food. As the homeless population becomes younger, we are also seeing long term dependence on food vans and handouts, or foraging for scraps. It is easy to assume people who beg do so to buy alcohol and drugs, but the hunger on our streets is genuine. Hostel accommodation, while substandard, is also expensive. We hear many stories from clients reporting that they have been exploited by hostel accommodation management and the private rental market, preferring to live on the streets as they perceive this to be the safer option.’
She is concerned about recent talk of a law and order crackdown on begging.
‘A law and order approach to address beggars on our city streets, whereby those least equipped to change their circumstances are being asked to do so because they are a nuisance, will make little impact on the core drivers of homelessness. Charging people for begging will only add to their burden. Many already face outstanding fines that represent a barrier to moving forward with their lives.’
As we work to create strong, sustainable local places, with thriving retailers and usable public spaces where we can connect, remembering everybody in that picture is important. Strong places have diverse communities that support each other and recognise the value that each brings to the community. How inclusive is your area?
You can read more about The Living Room services here: http://www.youthprojects.org.au
And for those interested in how charities operate, here is an awesome and inspiring TED talk on how we need to change how we view charity to get real results.