Shelter SA Executive Director Dr. Alice Clark is urgently calling on all Adelaide City Council Councillors to vote against adding time limits to their cease camping by-laws on the grounds that this will not address the complexities of long-term homelessness and the reasons why people stay in the Park Lands. Alice said today “there is a lack of affordable housing across Australia and the costs of living are skyrocketing but people staying in the parklands is not a Government ‘problem’ to solve – it shows a lack of understanding that Council is looking to housing authorities for a solution – this is a complex community issue that requires community input”. A report for the Myer Foundation (Styles, 2009) found that:
[Often the long-term homeless have] a psychiatric or intellectual disability, and often a co-occurring substance abuse disorder. Often the most significant impact that these disabilities can have is to impair decision making; the chronically homeless tend to not make good life decisions that lead to being stably housed. Many also have chronic physical health problems associated with neglect; e.g. rotting teeth, respiratory disorders, heart-disease and foot infections.
The current system often demands the individual or family jumps through many ‘hoops’, as if to prove that they deserve housing or are capable of maintaining housing. ‘Hoops’ typically include any program or short term accommodation designed to ready a person for housing, such as, shelters, drug and alcohol treatment centres, mental health treatment centres and transitional housing with very short tenures and no guarantee that permanent housing will follow.
Some of the people staying in the Parklands are Aboriginal people and Alice said “Australia has an unfortunate history of enshrining discrimination and racism in legislation and is globally infamous for it” and as if that’s not bad enough now “we see Council trying to forcibly move people on”. How people will be moved, where they will be moved to and who will be responsible for their safety and well-being is not known. Aboriginal people come to Adelaide for health reasons, visiting family and to escape violence. All South Australians are protected against discrimination and racism by the Equal Opportunity Act (1984) and the Racial Vilification Act (1996) as well as federal anti-discrimination laws. More time is needed before any voting to consult with the community and make room for self-determination in keeping with the Council’s own Reconciliation Principleshttp://www.adelaidecitycouncil.com/community/reconciliation/vision-statement/.
Today, Neville Highfold and Nicci Butler went with Alice to visit Stephen Yarwood, the Adelaide City Mayor, and Stephen admitted this will impact on Aboriginal people. Neville asked for more time to allow consultation with the Aboriginal community. Alice said, “there is no magic solution to the complex issue of chronic homelessness, Councillors need to talk to the people in the parklands, the workers who know them and Aboriginal Elders – the community and all levels of government must work together to offer the right assistance – we need to move beyond blame and focus on meeting the needs of our most vulnerable people”.
Dr. Alice Clark
The South Australian peak body for housing and homelessness