A man found dead in a house occupied by squatters on Bendigo Street in Collingwood may have died of a drug overdose, police believe.
Police said the man arrived at the property at number four early on Friday morning in what appeared to be a drug-affected state.
A neighbour, believed to be a squatter, found the man shortly before 10.30am and raised the alarm.
Police said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the man’s death and a report would be prepared for the coroner.
The man was aged in his 50s. Superintendent David Clayton could not comment on whether the man was the subject of a forcible removal from the street this week. He said that was a matter for the state government.
Peter, a resident of 20 Bendigo Street, said two security guards moved into number 4 about 11.30pm on Thursday.
“I saw two security guards go in and drag a couple of people out, about 11-11.30pm,” he said.
“It’s really horrible, it shouldn’t have happened. If the government had their wits about it what they should have done is get all these people out of here and put them in public housing.
“The government let this happen, it’s not the government’s fault that he died the way he died but they had a part in it.”
A member of the Homeless Persons Union of Victoria, who lives two doors down from where the man was found on Friday morning, said the community was “in a lot of pain at the moment”.
“Everybody is mourning, as a community we are coming together to support each other, and we send out commiserations and condolences to this man’s family,” he said.
Squatters living in neighbouring houses gathered in the street.
Police have handed possession of 4 Bendigo Street to the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, a departmental spokesperson said.
The street has been in the spotlight this week after police moved in on squatters living illegally in several homes acquired for the dumped East West Link project.
On Wednesday, more than 50 police swooped on Bendigo Street to evict squatters who had barricaded themselves inside number 13. One man was dragged out of the house and arrested on the street, by up to six officers.
Fitzroy Legal Service solicitor Meghan Fitzgerald, who is representing some of the Bendigo Street squatters, said she was deeply saddened by the death.
“It’s a tragedy. It’s someone’s son,” she said.
“The state pursued costs against the homeless people in court this morning, while someone has died on the street.
“It indicates where their priorities are [when] this is an area with the highest rate of drug overdoses in Victoria.”
Claudia Fatone, a FLS executive officer supporting the Bendigo Street community at the scene on Friday, said every loss from the homeless community was representative of a broader issue.
“Our view is that as a community, as a government, as a state, we need to do better in assisting people who have significant health issues,” she said.
“There’s a broader issue at play in terms of people being homeless, in terms of their other complex needs that we should really be focussing on.
“Let’s look at where we can assist people and their complex needs through an outreach model.”
Ms Fatone was critical of how Victoria Police had handled the situation.
“I think we need to address the complex needs of people and that perhaps the policing response may not be the most effective one and there should be other considerations take.”