The state government recently passed legislation to remove a group of homeless people camped for several months in Sydney’s central business district.
Located just metres from New South Wales Parliament and some of Australia’s largest banks, the homeless camp was a practical response to a lack of affordable housing and a political activity designed to capture the attention of policy-makers and the general public. The state government’s legislation—which gave the relevant minister power to confiscate property and remove people from Crown land on public safety grounds—sought to end months of disagreement about who should take responsibility, and about what the appropriate responses might be. Was it the job of local government or state government? Should the campers simply be excluded from the central business district of Sydney? Or should there be a response that addresses the root causes of their homelessness?
The events in Sydney are not unique. Melbourne’s Lord Mayor recently attempted to introduce by-laws that would ban people from sleeping on the streets of the central business district. Public protests quickly followed. Elsewhere in the world, governments and civil society organisations are grappling with how to manage the seemingly intractable problem of homelessness, particularly in large cities.
In this episode we talk to Dr Tom Baker, a lecturer at the University of Auckland, about the ‘problem’ of homelessness. We discuss the factors that have led to the crisis of homelessness. We ask what policy makers and academics can do to address homelessness in the 21st century city.