Pointless: Homeless fined $652 for sleeping in bus shelter
A HOMELESS man has been fined $652 for sleeping in a Gold Coast bus shelter, leading to calls from a charity advocate for the fine to be scrapped and more housing provided.
You Have A Friend founder John Lee, stunned that a homeless person was singled out for a gfine, says he believes the Gold Coast and Tweed have the highest concentration of homeless people in Australia and nothing is being done about it.
This month a man and his two dogs have been reportedly living in disabled toilets at Rainbow Bay and Greenmount, a tent has been set up at Burleigh Headland and just over a month ago a baby girl was allegedly thrown into the Tweed River by a homeless father.
Gold Coast City Council is not responsible for housing the homeless and directs them to agencies that can help.
But Mr Lee, whose organisation feeds about 300 homeless people at Coolangatta each week, revealed yesterday a $652 fine had been handed to a 50-year-old man by a Gold Coast City Council officer because the man was sleeping in a bus shelter, which was deemed "illegal camping''.
Mr Lee said this was sending a bad message.
The infringement notice states the man, who Mr Lee said lives rough between Pottsville and Coolangatta, was fined $652 at 2.26am on November 25 for operating "a regulated activity without a permit'' - in other words, illegally camping.
"Bus shelter, Warner Street Coolangatta … illegal camping," the infringement notice reads.
Mr Lee said the man was woken up in the early hours by a council officer and police.
He said he was going to challenge the fine.
"This is totally rubbish, as in human rights you can't fine someone for sleeping when he has no home," he said.
"They can tell them to move on but where are they moving on to? There needs to be places for them to go to."
A council spokeswoman said officers did not fine homeless people if they knew they had nowhere to go.
"Penalty infringement notices for conducting regulated activity without authorisation are issued for illegal camping infringements, not for being homeless," the spokeswoman said.
"If city officers become aware that individuals are homeless they seek the appropriate advice and support from the relevant State Government department and local support services."
But the issue of people bedding down wherever they want has raised concerns from the community.
A makeshift camp at Tallebudgera Creek this week drew criticism from beachgoers.
And a woman who works with children with disabilities said a man living in disabled toilets needed to move on.
Rainbow Bay resident Kim Brewitt said something needed to be done because people with disabilities needed those toilets.
"Some people need to get catheterised and need to be able to go to those toilets," she said.
"With him in there with two dogs, people in wheelchairs are not going to go in there."
A police spokeswoman said the man's presence in the area was not an offence.
"Police are aware of the man in the Rainbow and Greenmount area and have been working to put him in touch with relevant agencies for assistance," she said.
"Police have also regularly contacted support agencies to advise them of the man.
"The Queensland Police Service is always concerned for the safety and wellbeing of all people in our community and that includes the most vulnerable."
A council spokeswoman said homelessness was not the local authority's responsibility but it was working on solutions.
"While the city is not the lead, we work closely with State Government agencies and community groups to address homelessness on the Gold Coast," the spokeswoman said.
"This includes working collaboratively to provide an appropriate response for this individual."
A Department of Housing and Public Works spokesman said the Gold Coast had an "incredibly strong community of specialist homelessness services" that were able to assist people in need.
"Their work is supported through a homelessness protocol, developed in consultation with City of Gold Coast and Queensland Police to help ensure people in need of assistance are treated with dignity and respect," he said.
"In 2018-2019, the department is investing over $7.9 million to support the work of nine specialist homelessness services on the Gold Coast to provide temporary support accommodation and other support services to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness."