Urgent Action Needed For Woolloomooloo

Despite years of calls for action on homelessness, the Government and successive Ministers for Housing have left Woolloomooloo residents to suffer the impact of 60 to 90 people sleeping rough in streets and parks.

While the number of rough sleepers counted across the City in February was down, there are new people sleeping rough in the area responsible for serious crime and anti-social behaviour, and others who don't know the community agreements between rough sleepers and residents.

About 70 residents and homeless people at this week's community policing meeting expressed anger and frustration about ongoing anti-social behaviour and community conflict.

Housing NSW, which is responsible for addressing homelessness and is a major landlord and property owner in Woolloomooloo, did not send representatives despite repeated requests. At Tuesday's meeting, tenants reported that public housing properties have been left vacant for three months and vandalised while vacant Housing NSW commercial properties in Cathedral Street need to be leased to help activate Tom Uren Square.

Housing NSW evicted the local community garden from the long vacant 174 Dowling Street site for urgent construction with federal housing stimulus funds, but it remains empty and unused. Housing NSW cleansing contractors were sacked for more than a month before new cleaners started work, and dumped rubbish remains a problem at their garbage bays.

Urgent action is needed. I have called on Housing NSW to employ a dedicated Community Development Worker to fix local public housing and homelessness problems quickly and get all agencies to coordinate services and action in Woolloomooloo.

A dedicated Housing NSW position helped in Surry Hills. The Housing NSW office in Woolloomooloo is only open a few hours a week and could house a full-time Community Development Worker.

Police have been active, arresting drug dealers, tipping out alcohol in Alcohol Free Zones and stopping public urination. We need ongoing strong police street presence in Woolloomooloo to address drug-related crime and anti-social behaviour such as street drinking, public urination and noise complaints.

The Government must give priority to Woolloomooloo homeless people in the Camperdown Project, which will provide new units and support for people to get back on their feet.

Homelessness is a State Government responsibility, yet the City of Sydney continues to have to fill the gaps left by Housing NSW. The City does more than any other Council to address homelessness. We run the Homeless Persons Information Centre, fund an outreach worker who sorts out problems in streets and parks, organise research and homelessness street counts, and fund vital referral and support services.

We need all levels of Government involved and all agencies working together and I have called on the Government after 26 March to sign upto a new Tripartite Agreement for Woolloomooloo, with national, state and local governments all working together to reduce homelessness.

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