The Guardian October 25,2000


Unique approach to homelessness

by Andrew Jackson

A unique approach to homelessness in Sydney's inner city has been taken 
by South Sydney Council as they prepare to negotiate with 25 squatters to 
take "Caretaker status" over empty Council buildings.

The buildings on Broadway have been empty since the beginning of the year, 
the Council plans to demolish them and hand the site over to Walker 
Corporation to build 130 luxury apartments.

Many residents of the squat have been pushed out of the private rental 
market by Olympic-exacerbated rent increases and no-ground evictions.

Previously, the South Sydney Mayor, "Community Independent" John Fowler has 
taken an aggressive attitude towards the occupation, having attempted to 
evict the residents a number of times since August 23. At one stage Council 
threatened residents with a $1.1 million fine for disobeying an eviction 
order.

Councillor Fowler is also notorious for allegedly filing an eviction notice 
without Council approval on the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Victoria Park. 
Citing "health and safety" concerns he was hoping to remove the Embassy in 
time for the Olympics.

The four ALP Councillors and the one Greens Councillor won the vote to 
withdraw from all legal proceedings against the squatters and refer the 
matter to the Council's Homelessness Committee.

Liberal, Democrat and Independent Councillors voted together to continue 
with the eviction.

Gavin Sullivan, spokesperson for the Sydney Housing Action Collective 
(SHAC) said, "It is now quite clear that ... the feeling of the majority of 
Council is that council should be negotiating not litigating."

Arlene, a resident said, "We have nowhere else to go. We shouldn't be 
punished for attempting to house ourselves without being a burden on the 
State."

"In fact, we are offering the Council an innovative pro-active approach to 
solving problems of homelessness in the South Sydney Council area."

The proposals that will be put to the Homelessness Committee by the 
residents include: being able to stay on the premises until Walker Corp is 
ready to proceed with the demolition, the Council signing a provisional 
tenancy agreement, and that the Council assist by finding alternative 
accommodation for those who will be made homeless by the redevelopment.

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