HOMELESS people from interstate are flocking to Melbourne for free food, clothes, showers and dental treatment. As the city struggles with a record number of rough sleepers, interstaters living on the street said Melbourne was the best city in Australia for its treatment of the homeless.
The Sunday Herald Sun can reveal the full list of freebies on offer from charities, as the Salvation Army warned that some well-meaning charities were only adding to the problem by providing so many services that people wanted to stay on the streets.
Salvos spokesman Major Brendan Nottle said: “We have to ask — does our help help, or does it harm? People dropping off food and clothes at all hours of the day and night, does it alleviate homelessness or does it entrench it?
“There are services which don’t focus on what homeless people ultimately need — a home with all the supports to get them back on their feet.”
Lord Mayor Robert Doyle was puzzled why the city’s homelessness problem was growing when there were more free services than ever, from at least 70 organisations.
“The onus is now on all of us to ensure these services are co-ordinated, so that every dollar makes a contribution to improving these unacceptable levels of rough sleeping and homelessness,” he said.
The list of handouts for the homeless includes a free all- day breakfast, shower facilities, and the provision of toiletries, underwear and socks.
Young people can see a doctor or a dentist, get legal advice, use computers and iPads, and talk to Centrelink.
Several rough sleepers from interstate said they were drawn here by the number of services offered.
Tamara Donovan, 43, arrived a fortnight ago after spending nearly two years homeless in Launceston.
“Tasmania is very limited, I’ve been 18 months on the streets there and there’s no funds or facilities,” she said.
“I had to resort to criminal behaviour to survive. All the services in Melbourne have been great, they’ve found us somewhere to stay, have a shower, have a meal.”
Queenslander Steven “Trix” Crellin, who has been homeless on and off for eight years, enjoyed a free $10 feed at Health Cosmos in Collins St, one of 11 cafes participating in a City of Melbourne/ Cohealth free meals program.
“I think the number of services are great,” he agreed.
Homelessness advocate Lisa Peterson said she had noticed more interstate people in Melbourne recently.
Council to Homeless Persons chief executive Jenny Smith said the idea that people were opting to come to Melbourne in the middle of winter to sleep on the street “failed the common-sense test”.
Launch Housing deputy CEO Heather Holst said recent data revealed up to three-quarters of rough sleepers were from Victoria.
“I don’t think Melbourne is a so-called honeypot and that’s shown by the number of rough sleepers we’re seeing in the outer suburbs,” she said.
Housing Minister Martin Foley said he believed the figure for interstate homeless here was low.
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