Greens Concerned About Council’s Approach To Homelessness As Security Fencing Is Installed At The Community Village

Jonathan Cassell outside the new security fence at the Community Village.

 

COFFS Harbour Greens are calling on Coffs Harbour City Council to clarify their management framework for dealing with the Coffs Harbour homelessness crisis.

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They are concerned that the erection of security fencing at the Coffs Harbour community Village goes against the spirit of the Council’s ‘My Coffs Community Strategy’, the goals of which state that the Council ‘explore innovative solutions to affordable accommodation provision’ and that ‘collaborative approaches, based on evidence, are used to best reduce disadvantage’.

Coffs Harbour Greens Convener, Jonathan Cassell, is concerned that the fence indicates that the Council is moving away from these goals and towards a more punitive attitude when dealing with the homelessness crisis.

Mr Cassell said, “We think that this is a very insensitive move by Council leadership and contrary to the Council’s My Coffs Community Strategy goals of a thriving and connected community.”

“We believe that Council could be a regional leader in addressing the escalating homelessness and housing crisis in our area through the development of a Council-wide homelessness strategy,” he said.

The Greens and the Council agree that Coffs Harbour has a growing homelessness problem that requires State Government funding and resourcing.

However, the Greens feel that a more specific Council homelessness strategy would go a long way to moving forward with the best interests of the entire community in mind.

Mr Cassell said, “Council can plan, liaise, advocate and review by-laws and they can also develop formal and informal policies on homelessness just as Clarence Council have done, who have been recognised for their outstanding work in this area.”

The Coffs Harbour City Council has examined strategies for providing affordable housing in the medium to long term, but, in the short term, the Greens view is that the situation is not expected to improve in 2021 and the risks for youth homelessness, in particular, are increased.

A spokesperson for the Council said that an expert was engaged to undertake an independent Community Safety Audit in March 2020 for the Community Village area in response to a number of security and amenity issues raised by tenants in the village, service providers and Police.

A short-term priority was the installation of a safety fence to create a safer environment in the hope that new service providers will be interested in taking up residence at the Community Village to help those in need.

The audit included working with service providers to look at the expansion of services for the homeless but according to the Council spokesperson, “These are complex issues but putting people and safety first is at the heart of Council’s approach.”

The Greens view is that, while they appreciate that there have been security concerns, good governance requires foreseeing problems before they get worse and acting to remedy an issue, and that the fence simply shifts the problem to another location.

 

By Andrew VIVIAN

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