Update from Cr Brooke Patterson

As people are aware, the power to address homelessness as well as anti-social behaviour on our streets is with the State Department of Communities, Housing and Digital Economy, and the Police. Council has established its own homelessness action plan and public space liaison officer program to engage and connect to resources but that only works if those State government resources are forthcoming. The issue is the Gold Coast is not getting its fair share of emergency accommodation.

Council has gone to the end of what it is legally allowed to do in interacting with these individuals – we have our specialised staff (Public Space Liaison Officers) who are engaging every day, one by one, to connect rough sleepers with relevant services and support.

For example, one person on the streets in Southport today has been identified as fleeing domestic violence and we have secured housing for her tonight.

Many others’ situations are far trickier to address.

An underlying problem is the Department, Council and the Police are shackled by the Human Rights Act which our well-meaning State government introduced a few years ago. It effectively means if someone refuses support and prefers to lie on the streets high on meth, no agency has any power to do anything. It is utter nonsense. I assert the State should repeal this monstrous overreaching bill and also reinstate the Vagrancy Act which at least ensured people who had no money and could not fend for themselves, were at least fed, accommodated and provided basic medical attention for a month – giving them a chance to get back on their feet.

For the rough sleepers on the streets in Southport now, who would accept housing, the Department does not have anywhere for them.

The Department of Housing informed us the last time a number of these individuals were placed into emergency accommodation, they caused so much damage to the venues, that the local hotels will not accept them again. The department says now we just have to wait for these severely drug affected people to actively take on turning their lives around, accept the support provided by our liaison workers. Frankly it is pie in the sky wishful thinking, is not good enough and no good for anyone.

We are working with the police who are ensuring those rough sleepers who have acted criminally will be prosecuted. Again though, it is frustrating for us and the police that after prosecution people are released with a rap on the knuckles and little else.

I urge the Chamber to ask Minister Leanne Enoch: when will the Gold Coast get its fair share of emergency housing?

Cr Brooke Patterson
Councillor for Division 6

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