Controversial move by council ahead of Australia Open

Players, personnel, and spectators from all over the world are descending on Melbourne as the tennis world prepares to put on the first Grand Slam spectacle of the tennis calendar, the Australian Open.

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The City of Melbourne has come under scrutiny as they add another sweep to the CBD to move homeless Australians away from areas that might be seen by visitors. The council spokesperson says that it’s just a routine operation. In a released statement the council said, “We will continue to work with homelessness agencies to improve public amenity and safety in this area and to try and find suitable alternative living arrangements”.

It’s not illegal to sleep on the streets of Melbourne, but it is illegal to set up camp on public land. The Salvation Army’s Major Brendan Nottle told ABC, “Sometimes it’s only one or two people, but the difficulty begins when those camps start to grow”. He added, “There have been camps around the city that have anywhere up to 10 to 15 people staying at them, and that becomes a problem, particularly for people trying to access surrounding businesses and also trying to move down the footpath.”

Many are saying that the focus should be less on making the city “pretty” for the visitors and concentrate more on the housing problem. Mr Nottle agrees that affordable housing is a major issue.  He stated, “We need to steel our resolve even further and do everything we possibly can to try to get access to housing so we can get people off the streets and get them into accommodation which has all the supports that they need to get them back on their feet.”

The council hasn’t ruled out more sweeps of the area but have said that they will work with the police and homeless community bodies like Salvation Army to make sure people are relocated properly.

What do you think? Do you think this issue should be focused on? Do you believe it’s only getting attention now because of the Australian Open?