By Annabelle Lee
After a recent ban by of makeshift camps in the city, Wattle Park was met with a violent encounter that left park goers officially worried for their safety.
Box Hill South resident and regular Wattle Park user Joyce Wong witnessed a rough sleeper yelling and throwing glass bottles at dusk in early March of this year.
Ms Wong said the rough sleeper had been sleeping on the same bench quite regularly, with a couple of glass bottles always by his side, noting his previous demeanor to be “pretty peaceful”.
“On this day, he’d hurled his bottles onto the road that he was aggressively screaming at using incoherent, slurred words,” said Ms Wong.
“I was so scared but kept my head down and continued to walk on like everyone else,” she said.
“It’s just so unexpected seeing this happen at a park where kids frequent.”
This incident came soon after Lord Mayor Robert Doyle received backlash for amending the Activities Local Law 2009.
Robert Doyle is an idiot. You can’t ban homelessness. You can’t fine someone for being poor. You can’t make not having a house illegal.
— emma (@tracky_dacks) February 7, 2017
Launch Housing representative Nikki Schliker said that although Mayor Doyle’s decision was “not the greatest moment in history”, parks and quieter areas within inner Melbourne suburbs could be seen as a safer option for rough sleepers.
Ms Schliker said that rough sleepers in the city “experience a lot of assault from other rough sleepers and things getting stolen from them whilst they’re sleeping”.
“A lot of the time the housing we provide isn’t the safest, so [rough sleepers] find it safer sleeping on the street- and now parks further from the city I guess- because there’s vegetation around to protect them as well as less disruption,” said Ms Schliker.
“I really don’t think Council is focused on increasing funding and services for inner suburbs, because I know city areas are only getting 40 transitional housing properties for rough sleepers to move into after this ban, which isn’t anywhere near enough.”
“[Council will raise] community awareness of homelessness and [advocate] for the need for outreach services to support individuals who are rough sleeping in the City of Monash,” said Monash Mayor Rebecca Paterson.