Woolloomooloo Public Housing Tenants' Meeting

(11am 17 May 2012, Juanita Nielson Centre)

Hello, everyone, welcome to our meeting. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the 200 nationalities who make up our city.

We have a number of guests at today's meeting:

  • Clive Bradshaw, Area Director from Housing NSW
  • Inspector Jason Weinstein, Crime Manager from Kings Cross Local Area Command
  • Rebecca Martin, Manager Safe City
  • Kate O'Connor, Project Coordinator, Safe City
  • Dominic Grenot, Public Liaison Officer
  • Leisha Deguara, Resource Recovery Manager who works on recycling
  • Marcus Moran, Kings Cross NSC Manager
  • Raewyn Broadfoot, Community Garden Coordinator
  • Liz Giles, Project Coordinator, Homelessness
  • Ciara O'Riordan, from my Policy Team in the Office of the Lord Mayor
  • Leanne Abbot, from my Electorate Office

After our last meeting in November and given the reports I was hearing about problems in Woolloomooloo, I asked City of Sydney officers, Housing NSW, and Kings Cross Police to carry out a safety audit in Woolloomooloo with local residents.

The audit will identify safety risks and improvements to safety in Woolloomooloo, with teams covering different locations in the daytime and at night. It is vital for residents to be involved as you know the area, so if you'd like to take part, please speak to Kate O'Connor or Dominic Grenot.

The City and Kings Cross Police held a terrific Good Neighbour barbecue at Sydney Place in March. Over 80 residents came along, with children and young people.

We hold these BBQs every six months, and it's a good way to talk with your neighbours about local issues and raise them with police or City staff who can then take action. This means better resources for your area, such as the new street representative scheme.

This project asks residents to act as the "eyes on the ground" for their local street. The City's crime prevention coordinator for Woolloomooloo, Kate O'Connor, is working with the community so we can help make the area cleaner and safer.

Street representatives will report things like dumped rubbish, graffiti, abandoned vehicles and similar problems, so the City can deal with them quickly.

It's not time consuming but it will make a big difference to your area, so please speak to Kate today if you're interested. I know we have some very community minded people in Woolloomooloo who have been doing this sort of thing for some years.

Residents have reported problems with street drinking, and one measure to help address that is to declare streets and parks "alcohol free" areas. The City relies on police advice and community comment to decide where this is needed.

Next month, Council will consider a proposal to ban alcohol consumption in public places in Woolloomooloo. Some of the streets and public spaces are Housing NSW property and the department has to approve the bans on their land.

We've asked for community feedback on the proposal and we welcome anyone who wants to speak - either for or against the proposal - to Council Committee on June 18. Or you can write or email to Safe City.

Dominic or Kate can get you the maps and lists of streets if you need more details.

The Memorandum of Understanding or MOU between the City and Housing NSW helps us solve problems, with senior staff meeting monthly to prevent crime and improve safety, plan community events, improve to parks and public spaces, improve waste management, encourage responsible pet ownership and better communicate with residents.

A lack of long term funding for Housing NSW has left a backlog of maintenance and repair work and the inner city has some of the oldest social housing properties so this is impacting badly on places like Woolloomooloo. The new Government has also split the Department of Housing into two, with a separate Minister dealing with properties and repairs.

Earlier this year I launched the Redfern Legal Centre's Repair Kit for Housing NSW tenants. The Repair Kit helps you understand the processes involved in getting action from Housing NSW.

I am proud that my Lord Mayoral Salary Trust could fund Redfern Legal Centre to design and print this kit. Leanne from my Electorate Office has some copies of the kit here today if you would like one.

I regularly hear back from Housing NSW that a lot of problems and needed repairs have not been reported, and remind you that you have to call the Housing Contact Centre to report maintenance problems and get a reference number.

Housing NSW cannot fix things if you don't tell them!

Homelessness has not been solved, but there has been some progress and work continues. The February City of Sydney Street Count found a drop in numbers of homeless people in the inner city from 418 in February 2010 to 310 this year.

Numbers in Woolloomooloo dropped from 95 in winter 2010 to 45 in February this year, but I understand that there are now about 60 people sleeping rough in Woolloomooloo, including a number of very vulnerable women.

City staff are working with Kings Cross Police and support services to try to get these women off the street quickly. I will ask Inspector Jason Weinstein to report on the current situation and plans.

Our Public Space Liaison Officer spends three mornings a week in Woolloomooloo to encourage rough sleepers to help look after public spaces. As you know, they have no legal powers, and we need Police to address crime and anti-social behaviour.

We have to keep working hard on homelessness. Some of this action includes:

  • Working with rough sleepers, police, residents, Hopestreet, Matthew Talbot and local food and homelessness services to reduce impacts on amenity
  • Coordinating the Integrated Services Hub with 14 agencies once a month to help tenants and homeless people with Housing, Centrelink, legal, health, education, employment and outreach services, Medicare, and the Ombudsman
  • Researching the costs of maintaining homelessness versus getting people into supported housing, to help our advocacy efforts
  • Working with the multiple mobile food service providers to encourage new providers to go to different places and to prevent local impacts. The City has no formal powers and cannot force them to do anything

Most of those on the street have complex health problems, and St Vincent's outreach health team is providing mental health care, basic medical care and help with substance abuse problems.

There has been some success, with about 35 rough sleepers from Woolloomooloo housed by Way2Home in Common Ground, the Platform 70 projects or social housing over the last 12 months. Homelessness in this precinct has been a longstanding problem, and I will continue to work with you to deal with the impacts and to get people off the street and into housing.

Unfortunately there are some new faces in the area who don't know about the agreed behaviour and the Homelessness Unit is meeting with rough sleepers to talk about how they can prevent problems.

I'm pleased to hear about the enthusiastic work on the Bourke Street Garden. A wide range of gardeners - some new and some real "green thumbs" - have got together and decided on the vision for the garden.

They want it to be

  • a place to build a strong community
  • a productive space and a place for learning
  • a place where nature meets concrete, and
  • a friendly space where things are shared.

Rae Broadfoot, the City's community garden coordinator, is working with the garden committee to adapt the design and there will be a working bee to kick start the garden when a new draft landscape design is approved.

If you would like to work in the garden, contact her at the City on 9265 9786, and she'll add you to the group.

Both the Juanita Nielsen Centre and the PCYC run a range of programs and activities for young people from three to 6pm on weekdays, including job support, recreation and sports programs.

The City's Over 55s team produce our GOLD - Growing Old, Living Dangerously - brochure twice a year. Brochures are available here today and also at the Mary McDonald Centre. You'll find they have a terrific list of free and low cost programs.

Thank you all for coming here today, and I'd now like to hand over to Clive Bradshaw who will be giving a local area housing update.