City of Melbourne sweeps homeless ahead of Australia Open

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A homeless man sleeps under a blanket on the pavement outside a convenience shop in central Sydney March 15, 2012.
A homeless man sleeps under a blanket on the pavement outside a convenience shop in central Sydney March 15, 2012. Reuters/Tim Wimborne

The City of Melbourne continues to remove homeless people as visitors arrive for the Australian Open tennis tournament. A dozen of illegal campers outside Flinders Street Station were advised by council officers, flanked by Victoria Police officers, to move along.

But City of Melbourne has clarified that it was conducting routine clean-up operations, and that removing campers from public places has no connection with the Australian Open. "There is no link between our routine and ongoing clean-up operations and any major events occurring in the city," it said.

The group agreed but returned after an hour with their belongings, according to ABC. On Tuesday, police and the council swept a camp set up underneath Sandridge Bridge, which connects the Central Business District to Southbank.

Last month, city’s lord mayor Robert Doyle said a new street clean-up operation in Melbourne will specifically target “abandoned” homeless camps. The Age has reported that a council-led crackdown has started before 2016 ended, with five camps along Bourke and Swanston streets cleaned up.

Doyle has also expressed his dismay that people continue to give homeless people items the likes of garden chairs, doonas and tents. "That is not a pathway out of homelessness and in fact what happens is the homeless just leave them sitting there and walk away from them," he explained.

Meanwhile, Salvation Army's Major Brendan Nottle has stated that campers need support services. These include treatment for mental health issues and drug addiction. "They don't just need a bed. That's not going to cut it," Nottle said.

VincentCare Victoria chief executive John Blewonski supports Nottle’s opinion, saying he wants issues about public drug use tackled. He also clarified that he will support the removal of camps if homeless people were linked to support agencies. "People do have strong empathy but they also want safe streets," Blewonski said.

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