Tasmanian Times

Economy

The Homeless: Thoughts from Parliament Lawns …

*Pics: Carol Rea’s pics of the homeless on Parliament House lawns …

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First published May 4

Homeless. Words have images attached to them. This image for many Tasmanian’s is probably that of an individual – someone a bit dishevelled, perhaps a bit grimy, needing a meal, in the vernacular ‘down on their luck’, usually someone you walk past a bit faster when you are on holiday on the mainland. Homeless people are experienced when you see ‘them’ sitting on the pavement in Melbourne or Sydney with a cup in front of them asking for small change, or in the most ‘in your face’ situation setting up a camp bed on George St on your way to the Opera House (how dare they). Whatever, it seems like a big city issue.

How wrong that image is. Today’s homeless are among us. But they are often invisible. They aren’t sitting on the pavement. They are occupying a friend’s spare room or taking up the offer of family, moving on after a few days or weeks, sleeping on couches, sleeping in sheds and caravans in backyards.

How do we count these invisible people?

The government has no accurate figures. And there lies the awful reality. If we knew as a community how many people were homeless we could, perhaps, do something about it. But if the numbers aren’t there how do we respond?

Who are just some of the invisible homeless? Parents with children relying on family and friends to ‘put them up’. Parents who won’t ask for assistance as they are worried they will lose custody or access to their children. Single people who are couch surfing and trying to find a share house while trying to study and or work. People who don’t have a car who are limited to applying for rentals close to public transport.

People who haven’t got a rental cv because they have never rented before. I’m sure you can add to the list.

It’s difficult to understand that here in Tasmania people can’t find a home to rent. That was never the way. Until recently.

What’s changed?

Is it the advent of AirBnB? Why is there a lack of rentals in the inner city and commuter suburbs?

These questions need to be answered if only to help the organisations who help house people be informed.

But let’s get a bit real now.

There are people camped on Parliament Lawns. Some are homeless. Some are supporters. There are no families camped there. Those people are still at the Hobart Showgrounds or spare rooms or tents in backyards or cars in dark streets. It’s not a place for children. But it is safe. It is public and there are lights and security cameras There are public toilets and access to water. There is a communal kitchen area. There is public support. But it’s public and it’s embarrassing for our government.

The campers will be most likely be ordered to move on sometime on Friday morning. Before Salamanca Markets. It’s not a good look for tourists to see a homeless camp. I feel sorry for the Police who will have to enforce it.

Some may choose to move and some may choose to be arrested.

If you are arrested and have no residential address then you can’t get bail. That means those people who have no residential address who resist arrest will be held in remand. ‘Held in remand’ sounds almost gentle. Well it’s not.

Why should homelessness mean you can end up in prison if you dare to protest about it!

*Carol Rea Why do I have any credibility to comment – why do any of us? I care about ‘community’ and how the future of that is intangible but crucial and special part of life in Tassie will look like for all of us. I worked in mental health in Tasmania for 20 years and understand how hard it is to be on the fringes. Homelessness in Tasmania. We can fix it.

Rhiannon Shine, ABC: Homeless campers evicted from Hobart Parliament House lawns

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39 Comments

39 Comments

  1. TGC

    May 10, 2018 at 12:31 am

    There you go, Sarah Lovell. Bill has come good, so turn your brolly upside down to catch some of the rain of dollars he is going to pour on Tasmania.

  2. TGC

    May 8, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    Labor MLC Sarah Lovell doesn’t have long to wait – a Shorten Labor Government is now a ‘shoe-in’ following this Coalition Budget – which won’t get through the Senate anyway – and this will mean a rapid resolution of the homeless (housing) crisis which is dominating Sarah’s concern.
    The promises have already been made.

  3. john hayward

    May 8, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    Thank you, #31 TGC.

    Godfrey, #31 … I apparently forgot that in Australia the powers of a sovereign are exercised by parliaments – which in Tasmania means by folks like Abetz and Rene Hidding whose scope of noblesse oblige is confined to similarly venal cronies.

    John Hayward

  4. Danny Carney

    May 8, 2018 at 12:55 am

    I reject the notion that AirBnB isn’t having an impact.

    Two of the rentals I have lived in over the last 5 years are now full-time AirBnBs. From where I sit now at my partner’s place on Mellifont Street I can see no less than 7 full time AirBnBs. The downstairs apartment beneath where I sit right now is a full time AirBnB. As I walk down Newdegate Street to North Hobart I walk past at least another 5 full time Air BnBs. Next to my own house in Sandy Bay is a full time AirBnB.

    Most of these houses would be perfect for young families, couples, singles. The one near my house used to house 4 students and is now a rotating door of tourists. It’s a demonstrable problem and one that has already been experienced all over the world. Our government should have known better.

  5. garrystannus@hotmail.com

    May 8, 2018 at 12:07 am

    I’m confused … from past experience, the Speaker only exerted authority as far as the steps down onto ‘the lawns’ under the trees.

    The Speaker’s authority may (as Mike in his #34 states) extend beyond the steps and throughout the park, but such an extended authority has not (in my limited knowledge) been exerted in the past.

    My query is that if past practice has been to arrest people for demonstrating up on the bitumen outside the very Parliament’s doors, and if such same past practice has been happy to allow all manner of demonstration down below on ‘the lawns’ … why then was it necessary to call in the police to evict from ‘the lawns’ (and arrest two of) this peaceful protest from homeless people?

  6. mike seabrook

    May 7, 2018 at 10:29 pm

    parliament house and its lawns are under the speakers authority . what did she instruct her employees to do. what has she said.

  7. TGC

    May 6, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    Give it a go #31 – whether you are homeless shouldn’t make any difference. Go and pitch your tent, caravan whatever on ‘public land’ – and test the idea that ‘I am a part owner’

  8. TGC

    May 6, 2018 at 3:47 pm

    #20 … “Not under the Finnish model – which is based on the underlying philosophy that you cannot solve any other problem unless and until a person has secure, independent housing.”

    And Finland provides that to everyone, regardless of whether they have done or can pay for it, free housing in other words? Is that a model you endorse?

  9. Pete Godfrey

    May 6, 2018 at 2:15 pm

    #30 … Spot on Ian. It is public land, owned by the whole of Tasmania.

    Surely if people don’t have a home of their own they should be able to camp on land that is public, unless of course, that we are embarrassed by the fact that we as a so-called Civil Society don’t look after those in need.

    Parliament owns nothing. Politicians have a very fragile tenure in public life, and they are there to represent the people of Tasmania and not their party, their political donors, or their mates or cronies.

  10. Ian Rist

    May 6, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    I note the ABC said the “land belongs to the Parliament”.
    Wrong! The land and the Parliament actually belongs to the people.
    The greed of the B&B situation is the cause of this rental crisis.
    The Fourth Reich in action.

  11. TGC

    May 6, 2018 at 1:12 am

    a shortage of low cost housing is not confined to Tasmania-the problem is Australia wide.
    A recent estimate reckoned (Australia wide) over 250.000 new houses are needed-instantly!

  12. Kevin Moylan

    May 5, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    A Christian and giving society is judged by how we care for our most vulnerable and underprivileged, the sick and disabled, our frail elderly and the mentally ill – those who have no-one to fight for their health and welfare and a meaningful future.

    In “The worst public health system in Australia.” – Australian Medical Association 2017.

    Australia has just enjoyed 22 years of unprecedented prosperity and boom times; never to be repeated. What about the poor Common people of the mighty Commonwealth? Why don’t the peasants matter anymore? Where did all our prosperity go?
    Maybe the Banking Royal Commission can find out …

    “To be truly compassionate one must sacrifice comfort and security and live with and care for those you feel compassion towards.” – Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

    “A man can never be a man until he has a home of his own.” – Nelson Mandela

    “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” – Mahatma Gandhi

    In TasMANIA! … Call the cops, they will fix it.

  13. garrystannus@hotmail.com

    May 5, 2018 at 11:09 am

    Here’s another worthy principle: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

  14. john hayward

    May 5, 2018 at 1:31 am

    Housing relief is on the way, Liberal style, with the $100m Cambria Green resort-to-die-for being planned in typical hugger-mugger style on 3185ha at Dolphin Sands near Swansea.

    Those who can’t meet the entry costs can still turn a profit by offering their remains as fish bait at East Coast fishing ports.

    John Hayward

  15. garrystannus@hotmail.com

    May 4, 2018 at 11:09 pm

    A worthy principle: from each according to their means … to each according to their needs.

  16. Snowy

    May 4, 2018 at 10:46 pm

    #22 … Now here’s another thought. Official figures as at March 2018 show 15,500 unemployed in Tasmania, 1,600 vacancies in Tasmania. So, Philby, where are the jobs for the other 13,900? You seem to know.

  17. Fred Night

    May 4, 2018 at 10:21 pm

    One of the ‘Homeless’ depicted in the Mercury website packing up his tent. I believe he is currently on bail for aggravated robbery. Does anyone suggest a suitable landlord?

  18. Philby

    May 4, 2018 at 8:21 pm

    Now here’s a thought … go and get a job instead of bludging on the workers who have to pay more in rates and taxes to support this rabble. No work, no pay, and no free housing.

  19. Tim Thorne

    May 4, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    #15 is wrong. There is no legal requirement for landlords to pass on Land Tax to tenants. They are perfectly entitled to absorb the cost.

  20. Snowy

    May 4, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    #19 … “There isn’t a link between income and having a place to live?”

    Not under the Finnish model – which is based on the underlying philosophy that you cannot solve any other problem unless and until a person has secure, independent housing.

  21. TGC

    May 4, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    #14 … There isn’t a link between income and having a place to live?

  22. TGC

    May 4, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    #10 … “Talk is cheap.”- and contributing ideas via TT equally so – maybe even cheaper.
    The reality: no-one does anything practical about it (not even me – or any of the Prosser candidates. )

  23. Penelope Ann

    May 4, 2018 at 10:45 am

    I sent this email to the Housing Minister two weeks ago. I received a standard receipt of message. Nothing more.

    It is appalling that Tasmanian families are homeless yet there are buildings waiting to be repurposed but instead being left to vandals.

    I have since learned that the Derwent Valley Council has emergency accommodation that is ready and waiting and can house 50 people. The facility was apparently offered to the Minister when this current homelessness issue first arose. He declined the offer. The Council has re-offered the facility again recently and has not had the offer taken up.

    It seems that the government does not want to make any long-term financial commitment to house homeless Tasmanians.

    The letter Penelope Ann sent …

    Dear Minister Jaensch,

    I was at New Norfolk recently and appalled at the Willow Court (former asylum) buildings abandoned and falling into disrepair.

    The Derwent Valley Council is calling for expressions of interest to sell or lease the buildings.

    While I can see that the Heritage buildings will find uses – possibly as tourist accommodation – the two storey, red brick, 1950s buildings have little appeal.

    They would, however, make good apartments for low income housing tenants … and they could be ready to move into in a matter of months.

    These buildings are already built. They have had some vandalism but still appear structurally sound. They would have been connected to services until recently.

    Refurbishment of these buildings for low income housing would provide immediate jobs.

    There is ample parking. Shops, schools and services are all close by. Public transport to Hobart takes about 35 minutes.

    New residents would boost the New Norfolk economy and refurbishment of what is currently an eyesore would be appreciated by the locals.

    It could be a vote winner for the Government!

    The advertisement for the property is “11 The Avenue, New Norfolk, Tas 7140” on realcommercial.com.au http://www.realcommercial.com.au/property-land+development-tas-new+norfolk-502708870

    Though I confess I do not support the Liberals, I do care about the provision of affordable housing. Accordingly, I ask that you give this suggestion your consideration.

  24. Kevin Moylan

    May 4, 2018 at 2:04 am

    Homelessness is a blatant denial of Human Rights.

    Universal Declaration Human Rights. Dec 10, 1948.

    Australia and Tasmania are proud signatories.

    ARTICLE 25 – 1: Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond control…

    No mention of 20 burly cops and your under arrest if you resist. No bail if No Fixed Address.

    Lucky we won the war – or did we?

    ‘People can only live full lives in light of human rights’. UNHCR

  25. Mike

    May 4, 2018 at 1:47 am

    I totally agree Ted (#12)

    Also, nobody mentions Land Tax.

    While not a new problem it contributes to raising the cost of rentals as landlords have to pass the expense onto to the tenants.

    It means that low income people are paying landtax on property they don’t even own.

  26. Snowy

    May 4, 2018 at 12:59 am

    #9: You are conflating two separate programs in Finland. The trial of universal basic income which you quote is not the same as the Housing First program to tackle homelessness. The latter continues and has been in existence since 2008. https://www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2017/mar/22/finland-solved-homelessness-eu-crisis-housing-first

  27. Mike

    May 3, 2018 at 11:02 pm

    I wish them luck. It’s a pretty dodgy neighbourhood to live in. Some the worst criminals and scum of the earth are located just meters away up the steps from them.

  28. Ted Mead

    May 3, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    Homelessness wouldn’t be an issue if we had a visionary government with future planning in mind rather than politicians ‘sailing with the wind’ attitude.

    Anyone who believes that Air B&B is the problem obviously has not observed what’s happened around Hobart in the last decade.

    1 – Tas governments have openly encouraged the massive influx of international students into UTAS.

    2 – Tas governments have been readily flogging-off public housing throughout Tasmania.

    3 – Tourism numbers to Hobart have escalated dramatically.

    4 – In many cases Air B&B has provided additional accommodation through people letting ancillary accommodation within their own premises.

    It’s not rocket science to comprehend that all the above factors were destined to create the problems that exist now.

    And yet we continue to vote these buffoons in!

  29. John Wiseman

    May 3, 2018 at 8:33 pm

    Why not sell all the affordable housing units in inner Hobart to working people? Then they stop blocking roads commuting into town.

    Then, with the money, buy twice as many units in further out locations. Then we can economically house the homeless people on the lawns and the people in the units.

    A unit in the city is $500k. A unit in Glenorchy is $250k. So two units for one means more houses.

  30. Kim Peart

    May 3, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    In my campaign in Prosser there has been heart-felt debate over the housing crisis in Tasmania, and homelessness.

    Over some years I have delved into the root causes, looked at working solutions, and I can make solid suggestions on action.

    Whether win or lose in Prosser, I plan to continue beating the drum for solutions to homelessness.

    End homelessness in Tasmania, and there will no longer be a housing crisis.

    What we need is a critical number of good people to beat the drum and demand action.

    That is how our democratic society works.

    Politicians respond to numbers.

    Talk is cheap, and never ending.

    Action is more challenging, but how else will we end homelessness?

    I received an Email from the Australian Christian Lobby, with a survey.

    I left the survey alone, but challenged the writer into action to end homelessness, to mobilise all persons of faith, including atheists, to beat the drum and demand action to end homelessness.

    I was told my direct approach was liked.

    I wrote back looking for action.

    No more was heard.

    Talk is cheap.

    Who is ready to engage in action to end homelessness?

    We can hold a community meeting to rally the troops and prepare a march, with drums, demanding action to end homelessness by providing homes.

    Email me ~ kimpeart@iinet.net.au

    We can prepare a march to Parliament House if we would like to end homelessness.

    Beyond talk, lies action.

  31. TGC

    May 3, 2018 at 7:06 pm

    #6 … A problem is those seeking housing don’t have the money now – or the income stream – to finance even ‘cheap’ housing – so it becomes the obligation of those with means/jobs to be prepared to be taxed more highly so that ‘free’ housing can be made available.

    Someone on TT – elsewhere – reckoned Finland had solved the problem.

    Opinion: Finland’s failed experiment and the pitfalls of free money

    Finland’s decision not to extend its “universal basic income” trial highlights the timeless problem of helping needy people without giving them a disincentive to work, but there are other ways to achieve a healthier, more productive society, writes Gigi Foster.

  32. TGC

    May 3, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    #4 … “Hopefully saviour of the Government, Speaker and Commander in chief, Sue Hickey, can give the dull Jaensch human a damned hard push in the rear to render him out of his comatose state!”

    You can be confident she will raise this, and these, matters at the next meeting of the Liberal Cabinet, and generally at Party room meetings.

  33. Tom Nilsson

    May 3, 2018 at 6:52 pm

    Sink or swim. It’s a dog eat dog world. And the Liberal Party doesn’t care about people who can’t swim.

  34. Emmanuel Goldstein

    May 3, 2018 at 6:14 pm

    “If you’re in trouble, or hurt or need – go to the poor people. They’re the only ones that’ll help – the only ones.” (John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath)

    Here’s a thought … perhaps what is required is a public housing authority. A government ministry to build and administer public housing, simple eh? Oh, hang on, we had that for many years, then our elected representatives decided the market would dictate. It is clear that government has failed in its primary duty to provide security to the people of Tasmania. Surely safe secure housing is a primary requisite for life?

    Take housing minister Mr Jaensch, where his operating costs salary, staff etc would go a long way to actually housing people, not talking about a perpetual crisis/business, but actually housing people. Other cross bench initiatives include sixty billion cash dollars to the big four banks and subsidised luxury accommodation for the rich in our National Parks and subsidised luxury food, travel and grog for parliamentarians, public servants etc. etc. Multi million dollar real estate scams involving UTAS – and one family profiting handsomely .. all detailed on TT for all to see.

    And the homeless poor? Well, the market dictates. Taken to its logical extension market dictates will eventually include selling or giving away kidneys for the privilege of not being beaten to death – as is the current case in Red Communist China. But hey, what the market wants the market gets right? According to it’s disciples the market has the final solution …

    Something ain’t right with this picture.

  35. mike seabrook

    May 3, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    Read this week’s Economist to see how China handles this issue in Beijing ..

  36. Robin Charles Halton

    May 3, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    #2 … Trevor, the fact is the Housing Minister Roger Jaensch is far too slow off the mark! Treating it similarly to a flood or fire housing emergency would be a far better PR exercise for government to shoulder responsibility for our under privileged citizens.

    Hopefully savior of the Government, Speaker and Commander in chief Sue Hickey, can give the dull Jaensch human a damned hard push in the rear to render him out of his comatose state!

    First cab off the rank for the after-shocks from a Hickey controlled government is to solve the problem by just providing some very basic housing.

    I cannot see why this is dragging on and on, as it’s most unreasonable in our reasonably affluent society.

  37. Tom Nilsson

    May 3, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    Fascists.

    All at the same time the federal government is subsidising rich people to stay in privately owned accommodation in our national parks:

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-05-04/federal-funding-for-private-huts-in-tasmania-wilderness-area/9724798

  38. TGC

    May 3, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    Responsibility to try to house the homeless is for [i]all[/i] elected politicians …

  39. Russell

    May 3, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    What a disgraceful, shameful act inflicted on the most vulnerable people in our society.

    All the Government does is talk, talk, talk – promise, promise, promise – while they have been selling off public housing for the last decade or two.

    Why don’t some of the Parliamentarians open up some of their own Airbnb homes to help the homeless? Maybe that’s why Willy wants to build more prisons – as substitute accommodation for the homeless?

    It would be cheaper to house them properly and immediately.

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