With crowds flocking to Melbourne’s annual White Night event, dozens of protesters have converged on the State Library steps to rally against the city’s proposed rough sleeping ban.
Holding signs reading “Public housing for the homeless” and “People are not rubbish you can’t sweep them off the streets” the advocates planned on spending the entire night at the landmark.
Others came along with large placards that spelled out “No homeless ban” in fairy lights.
The City of Melbourne’s proposed by-law amendments include banning any form of public camping and making it easier for the confiscation of unattended property.
The council will also run a public relations campaign to discourage people giving money to the homeless.
The city’s homeless count has increased 74 per cent in two years but homeless advocates fear if the ban goes through, other councils could follow suit.
“What are they trying to do? Run people that are experiencing homelessness through no fault of their own right out to the edge of Melbourne? It’s absolutely outrageous,” Kelly Whitworth from the Homeless Persons Union told AAP on Saturday night.
Ms Whitworth said people became homeless due to a range of reasons, including childhood traumas, family violence, unstable parents, relationship breakdowns and job loss.
“Because there’s not enough affordable housing, people are left for years living in rooming houses, in their cars, or if they’re really unfortunate living on the street,” she said.
“Melbourne city council should be putting pressure really strongly on the Victorian government (for solutions) instead of coming down on the victims of the unequal housing market.”
There is currently a 28-day public consultation period on the by-laws and if they go through, it is not expected to come into force until at least April.
The council says the changes are not a ban on rough sleeping but will broaden restrictions around camping to “better balance” the needs of all people in sharing public space.
The annual White Night event attracts about 500,000 people to the CBD for exhibitions, street performances and lighting displays from 7pm Saturday to 7am Sunday.
Police have put on extra resources for the event, including community engagement teams and youth workers, to prevent a rampage like the violent Moomba riot last year.
Explore the complex issue of homelessness in Australia