Aggressive behaviour on streets prompts concern from resident
Reports of a rough sleeper causing a public disturbance near Southbank Promenade has prompted safety concerns from a resident outside their apartment building amid ongoing efforts by authorities to end the housing crisis.
The incidents have been occurring near the Queensbridge Arcade located along the Yarra River, which has become a gathering spot for individuals experiencing homelessness.
A resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said while it was disheartening to see people sleeping rough, they expressed concern about one individual behaving aggressively, shouting, and assaulting a diner at an eatery.
“A glass was broken, and he was holding the guy,” the resident said after witnessing the man experiencing homelessness approach the diner in early August.
“Someone came and said, ‘chill out, chill out,’ and he said, ‘don’t come near me’, while still holding onto the guy. I asked someone to call the police.”
The resident said the incidents mainly occurred during the evenings, in which people experiencing homelessness were also congregating outside McDonald’s and 7-Eleven near Queensbridge Sqaure, but believed they hadn’t caused public order issues like the other individual.
“I don’t feel comfortable walking, I try to not make eye contact with the person as well, because he mumbles to himself quite loudly at night-time and he’s swearing,” they said.
“There should be a solution to this. We need to find out what is the problem and find a place for them to stay. It’s not right for them in winter when it’s cold.”
Victoria Police in a statement said that it continued to work closely with The Salvation Army and City of Melbourne “in an ongoing manner to engage with people experiencing homelessness in Melbourne and ensure they have access to essential services”.
“The priority for Victoria Police is to link people who are sleeping rough to the services available to them, and we work closely with local councils and support organisations to address these issues,” it said.
“If an offence is detected, police will deal with the matter at hand. Anyone who commits criminal or anti-social behaviour that puts the community at risk can expect a swift response from police.”
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the council was working with Victoria Police and other agencies to support the city’s most vulnerable people and “deliver initiatives that improve safety on our streets”.
“Every Melburnian deserves a roof over their head, and a safe place to call home,” she said, adding the council had homelessness support hubs, and had brought together 17 agencies to support people sleeping rough.
“While state government has the lead responsibility for delivering social and affordable housing, we’re stepping up to ensure anyone who needs it has access to a pathway out of homelessness.”
“This includes our Make Room project, which will deliver 50 custom-built studio apartments to assist those making the transition from rough sleeping to permanent housing.”
The council said while people experiencing homelessness would be referred to support agencies and assisted with any needs, when issues arose such as those relating to access, obstructions and impacts to the amenity of an area, council staff would direct people to safely relocate.
Almost $6 million will go towards safety infrastructure and resources, including lighting in key precincts and the operation of the Safe City Camera Program as part of the council’s 2023–24 budget with $100,000 to expand the Salvation Army’s street team, boosting safety after dark.
Southbank Residents’ Association president Tony Penna said homelessness “was a concern no matter where it is” but had faith the City of Melbourne were “doing all they can do deal with it”. •