Lawyer says Vic homeless ban won't work

Victoria police stand guard after they earlier evicted many homeless people from a makeshift camp outside Flinders St station in Melbourne, Feb.1. 26, 2017. Source: AAP

A new by-law to ban homeless people from Melbourne's CBD will have disastrous consequences for rough sleepers, a homeless advocacy lawyer has claimed.

Banning rough sleepers from camping out in Melbourne's CBD is a "high risk" move that won't deliver the results the council seeks, a principal lawyer for homeless people says.

Lucy Adams, manager and principal lawyer for Justice Connect, has raised concerns about a new council proposal that aims to ban homeless people sleeping in the CBD.

The by-law, tabled on Thursday night, seeks to broaden the definition of "camping" in the CBD, giving police the power to direct rough sleepers to move on.

Previously, it was only illegal to camp in a public place if the camper had a vehicle, tent, caravan or other temporary structure.

"A law that is this broad has a very high risk of impacting people negatively sleeping on the street. There's a very high risk it will cause them to be moved on or fined and caught up in the justice system," Ms Adams told AAP.

"It is a decision made under pressure, and at the end of the day it won't deliver the results the community or the City of Melbourne is seeking."

Ms Adams met with the council and Housing Minister Martin Foley recently to discuss the issue of homeless people sleeping at Flinders Street Station.

She says homeless people will only be forced from the city to outer areas where they will be more isolated from services, and ultimately more vulnerable.

The homelessness problem reached a crescendo on Wednesday as protesters violently clashed with police as they moved on rough sleepers for safety reasons as maintenance works began on the historic station.

The by-law proposal comes after police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton recently raised concerns the group were not actually homeless, but beggars in town to "shake down" tourists for money.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle responded by promising to push for local laws to increase police power to move on rough sleepers.

The by-law, which will be discussed in a council meeting on Tuesday, also proposes to launch a campaign discouraging people donating to homeless people in a bid to reduce landfill waste currently removed by council.

Source AAP

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