StreetCare advises on redevelopment to protect rough sleepers

The Macquarie St East Precinct is currently being ‘revitalised’ by the NSW Government. The precinct contains iconic and historic buildings, including: the NSW State Library, the Art Gallery, the Mint and the Registrar-General’s building. But it’s also used by people experiencing homelessness as a place to shelter and sleep.

Often these redevelopment projects benefit one part of our community at the expense of others already facing disadvantage. That’s why members of PIAC’s homelessness lived experience advocacy group StreetCare visited the development site, to be a voice on behalf of people sleeping rough.

StreetCare was asked to advise the Department of Planning, Housing and Industry during the redevelopment, and has given input on ensuring interactions with people rough sleeping are respectful, helping to prepare rough sleepers for being moved on, and making sure contractors are aware of the Protocol for Homeless People in Public Places.

Members also successfully advocated against installation of ‘defensive’ street furniture (designed to be hostile to homeless people) during the revitalisation process. This kind of architecture does not stop rough sleeping, but it does exclude people who are sleeping rough from a space. And it uses vital funds that could be put towards safer accommodation for people experiencing homelessness.

‘By visiting the development site, we were able to get a clearer picture of the works being undertaken and better tailor our advice to the Department,’ StreetCare member Anna said.

‘We’ve really appreciated the Department’s collaborative approach to ensuring the everybody using the precinct from politicians to people experiencing homelessness are recognised in the renewal process.’

The most recent Street Count reported a 26% increase in the number of people sleeping rough in NSW, with nearly 300 rough sleepers counted in Sydney city. The NSW Government must do more to prevent people from entering homelessness. But while people are sleeping rough, steps need to be taken to minimise harm and ensure they are treated with dignity.

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