Housing that was compulsorily acquired as part of the failed East-West Link project is STILL empty six months after it was handed over to a homelessness charity.
Today the Homeless Persons’ Union has occupied several vacant houses on Bendigo Street in Collingwood. Approximately thirty activists are camped out at Bendigo Street demanding to know why housing owned by the Andrews state government sits empty whilst thousands of people sleep rough on the streets of Melbourne.
— Kieran Bennett (@KieranBennett) March 30, 2016
Media release from the Homeless Persons Union:
EAST WEST LINK HOMES LANGUISH AMIDST HOMELESSNESS CRISIS
Early this morning a coalition comprising members of the Homeless Persons Union Victoria and Melbourne’s homeless community began demonstrating at a number of empty properties on Bendigo St, Collingwood. The properties are among those that were compulsorily acquired by the former Napthine government for the now defunct East West link.
The demonstration seeks clarification on issues surrounding the ownership, management and occupancy of these empty, publicly-owned properties. The lack of transparency has led to confusion within the homeless community.
Six months ago there were media reports that 20 properties were transferred to the Collingwood Football Club’s ‘Magpie Nest’ program, a partnership with The Salvation Army, to house the homeless. A spokesman from Magpie Nest claims that all properties transferred to their management have been filled.
In light of this, the demonstrators call on those responsible to immediately provide clarification on who owns and manages the remaining empty properties. It is unjustifiable that these dwellings remain unoccupied with a Victorian winter approaching.
There are 35,000+ Victorians on the public housing waiting list, growing at 100 per month. This is while the Andrews government neglects, demolishes and privatises public housing.
Each and every Victorian has a human right to safe, secure and affordable housing.People lose their lives due to medical conditions acquired through being exposed to the elements whilst living rough.
We ask the Andrews government and the Victorian public- is this good enough?
As of midday the action is ongoing, demonstrators are discussing the possibility of an ongoing occupation of the vacant homes.
Today’s action has ended with something of a win for demonstrators. Police responded to the demonstration Bendigo street this afternoon and demanded that homelessness activists vacate the occupied homes. After a prolonged standoff, police relented and departed.
Activists have announced that a mass meeting will be held tomorrow at 6:30pm and are encouraging all supporters to attend.
— Kieran Bennett (@KieranBennett) March 30, 2016
There is coverage of today’s action on The Age website:
Occupiers are staging a sit in, as part of an organised protest against the waste of much needed inner-city housing.
About 50 homeless people and members of the Homeless Persons Union Victoria are protesting at several of the empty homes that are now publicly owned. They have moved into the street, bringing couches, gas cooking burners and placards with them.
The Herald Scum also have a brief article up that’s so bad it’s not even worth linking too.
I’m posting periodic updates on twitter using the hashtag #EWLinkHouses.
Update 1 April 2016:
The #EWLinkHouses occupation on Bendigo Street Collingwood is ongoing! Demonstrators have occupied 2 Bendigo Street, and setup a protest media hub.
The Homeless Person’s Union have released a new set of demands:
BENDIGO STREET OCCUPATION TO CONTINUE UNTIL DEMANDS ARE MET – PUBLIC HOUSING NOW
A group of housing activists and homeless people have occupied properties in Bendigo Street, Collingwood.
These 6 government-owned houses were pledged to be used to address homelessness by the Andrews government, but many have been sitting empty for over a year.
The occupiers of the properties have made the following demands and refuse to leave until they are met.
• Immediate release of all information relating to the current ownership of all
properties acquired for the East-West Link, with full transparency about all
acquired land and no more dishonesty.
•The 6 unused houses on Bendigo St to be made into genuine public housing
and allocated to some of the 35,000 people on the public housing waiting list.
Occupation will continue until the first keys are handed over.
• All unoccupied properties acquired for the East-West Link that are still in the
government’s possession to be added to the public housing register.
• Minister Martin Foley to come to Bendigo St and be interviewed by people
with experience of homelessness.
• The Andrews government to say how they intend to provide housing for 25,000
homeless people while there are 80,000 unoccupied dwellings in Melbourne.
Given the importance placed on addressing housing issues by the report
of the recent Royal Commission on Family Violence, the occupiers believe taking
action on public housing should be an immediate priority of all levels of government.
There is more media coverage in The Age:
Homeless women ‘told they had 10 minutes to leave’ East West Link home
On Thursday Roads Minister Luke Donnellan said the nine vacant properties in Bendigo Street were empty because they were awaiting a tenant or needed more work to prepare them for occupation.
He said if the squatters at Bendigo Street were homeless they should join the public housing list – which stands at more than 30,000 people across Victoria and 1204 in Fitzroy, Collingwood and Richmond.
In a sit-in protest on Bendigo Street on Thursday, about a dozen people hung banners and set up couches and cooking facilities on the footpath.
The Green’s Ellen Sandell was among a number of supporters to pop down on Day 3 and offer support to the occupation:
— Kieran Bennett (@KieranBennett) April 1, 2016
Demonstrators intend to continue the occupation over the weekend. If you’re in the Melbourne area be sure to head down to Bendigo Street and show your support this weekend!