Promoting Good Practice

Paper 14: Public places; private issues: Helping rough sleepers in squalor

Mike Fish, Public Space Liaison Officer, City of Sydney and Dan Byrne, Community Services Worker, Mission Australia

This presentation will outline some success in the management of squalor and hoarding among rough sleepers in Sydney. The Inner-City Homelessness Outreach Support Service and the City of Sydney have used some innovative ways to work in a partnership with rough sleepers to manage the issues arising from those who are living in squalor or hoarding while sleeping on the street.

While definitions of squalor typically refer to "conditions that are filthy, unclean or foul through neglect", it can be unclear where these lines exist for people sleeping on the streets. Despite this, there are some cases where rough sleepers live in conditions so filthy that almost everyone would consider them unacceptable.

Those rough sleepers who live in squalor and those who hoard often experience complaints from local residents seeking improvements to amenity in the public space.

The strategies adopted have proved successful in balancing the rights of all people to be in public places, while respecting the right of local communities to live in a safe and peaceful environment. It includes the principle that people will not be harassed or moved on from public places unless there is a threat to security, their personal safety or if they are causing a breach of the peace.

The relationships developed between these support workers and the rough sleepers has permitted difficult decisions to be made regarding removal of treasured objects and improvements to extreme self-neglect.