The Guardian January 26, 2000


Olympic city to hide its homeless

by Rohan Gowland

The NSW State Government has revealed plans to sweep the homeless off the 
streets of Sydney during the Olympic Games. Closed hospitals and unused 
Department of Housing property will be opened up during the Games as 
temporary accommodation for the homeless in a bid to get them out of public 
view.

The accommodation is only for the period of the Olympics and will provide 
no long-term benefits for the homeless.

Homeless people have told the media that they want to stay where they are, 
where they know the area and the people.

The plans go hand-in-hand with new far-reaching powers bestowed on security 
officers employed by the City Council to forcibly remove unwanted people 
from the city area.

Strictly speaking the unwanted person must be causing an obstruction or 
public disturbance, but attempting to remove people would cause 
confrontations, which could then be deemed a "public disturbance" and the 
"offender" could be forcibly removed.

Alternatively, sleeping on a public bench or in a doorway could readily be 
called "causing an obstruction".

NSW Police will crack down on young people who are deemed to be loitering 
in the one place for too long.

The private security guards who presently patrol city streets dressed as 
stormtroopers and accompanied by German Shepherd dogs, will have greater 
powers to remove people from city streets.

The director of the NSW Council of Social Services (NCOSS) told The 
Guardian that his organisation would be meeting with the Minister for 
Housing, Dr Andrew Refshauge, on Monday January 24, to discuss proposed 
protocols which are supposed to "train" security officers in how to deal 
with any homeless people they come across.

The protocols are being developed by the Department of Housing and the 
Olympic Co-ordination Authority.

NCOSS will, as a starting point, be arguing that the homeless must be given 
the choice to remain where they are if they so wish.

The plans to get the homeless out of sight for the Olympics is not much 
subtler than at the Atlanta Games where the homeless were rounded up and 
bussed 300km away from the city.

Another issue of concern is that these wide powers of police and security 
guards are also aimed at restricting political protests.

Under the guise of the Olympics, Australia will be abusing the basic rights 
of its own people.

"A good measure of a civilised society is how it looks after its most 
vulnerable members", said the President of the NSW Council for Civil 
Liberties, Kevin O'Rourke, last week.

How civilised will the Olympics make us?

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