Greens in Parliament: Supporting the Martin Place Street Kitchen and Safe Space Community

Today Jenny spoke in support of the 24/7 Street Kitchen and Safe Space Community in Martin Place. 


Ms JENNY LEONG ( Newtown ) ( 12:37 :57 ): Just outside this place today tents are pitched in Martin Place. As a statement released by New South Wales homeless peak bodies, Homelessness NSW and Domestic Violence NSW, stated:

The Martin Place community is a small proportion of the broader rough-sleeping population in the inner city, which, in February 2017, totalled 433 people. Rough sleeping in Sydney has increased by 28 per cent since 2011. Rough sleeping represents only six per cent of the broader homeless population in this State.

I am pleased to see that there are representatives of the 24-7 Street Kitchen and Safe Space Community present in the gallery today. I give credit to them and to the people who are outside volunteering to provide support and a safe place for people who are sleeping rough in our city. They should be acknowledged in this place because it is the failure of the State Government to act that has forced those volunteers to step in to provide that support.

In Homelessness Week 2017 in particular one would have thought that the Premier, the Minister for Family and Community Services and the Liberal-Nationals Coalition Government would be providing support to those who are homeless and sleeping rough. Instead, we believe that a special meeting is taking place right now between the Premier, the Minister for Police, the Commissioner of Police and others as to how the Martin Place tent city is to be closed down and the people moved on in an attempt to sweep the issue of homelessness under the carpet. Last week I was disgusted to hear the Premier say that the tent city, located just outside the doors of Parliament House, made her feel "completely uncomfortable". The Minister for Family and Community Services was also quoted as saying, "I don't care what it takes, we will move these people on." I have a message for the Premier and the Minister for Family and Community Services: It is the responsibility of the State Government to provide people with housing and support. The Commissioner of Police should not be called in to work out whose responsibility it is to move them on. The Commissioner of Police was also quoted as saying, "If one person puts a step out of line, I'll throw them in the back of the truck … They should be gone and they should not be allowed back in the city."

These people do not have a place to live because of the housing crisis in this State and the failure of this State Government to act. Shame on the Premier, the Minister for Family and Community Services, the Minister for Police and the Commissioner of Police. Members have heard the Premier in this place attempt to lay blame and say that people who are sleeping rough are not taking up the opportunities being offered to them by Family and Community Services. I have spoken to some of these people. What are they being offered by Family and Community Services? They are being offered—and what does this phrase mean—"temporary, permanent accommodation". Apparently it is where people are allowed to stay longer in temporary accommodation in an effort to get them off the streets. That is all good in theory, but in practice people are being put in dodgy motels with no kitchen facilities to prepare their meals, no support services and no help to be able to get food. This will affect the hundreds of people who access the Martin Place community-led safe space kitchen.

The Government could be doing three things right now. First, it could take a Housing First approach to homelessness—give people immediate access to permanent housing. The Government talks about the budget surplus. Why not use some of that money to get permanent housing for people who are homeless and sleeping rough? Secondly, it could make a massive investment in social, affordable and public housing. A 30 per cent target on all new developments would go a long way towards addressing the housing affordability crisis in this State. Thirdly, and it will cost the Liberal-Nationals Coalition Government nothing, introduce an end to no-grounds evictions to take the pressure off those who live in the private rental market. Thirty per cent of the population of New South Wales live in the private rental market. Today it will be a shameful act if the Premier calls in the police to kick out the people of the tent city in Martin Place. I will stand with those people to say that they should not be moved on; they should be given permanent housing.


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