Thursday, January 27, 2011

sleeping in cars - deferred for review

report from the roundtable - 25 jan

First meeting back for 2011 and there was a lot of attention given to our first item on the business paper, the making of the General Provisions Local Law 2010.

The local law had been developed to cover off on a number of things, however the item that caught the attention and ire of many community members, legal advocates and agencies was the part of the law that dealt with sleeping in cars.

As it was worded the draft law before council would have given council officers the ability to criminalise homelessness as it would be a breach of the law to sleep in your car. Council never intended the law to be applied in this way, it was really about having an ability to move on campers at Lillydale Lake, who are causing significant amenity impacts to locals who use the park.

I had come out publicly against supporting the law as it was written and had been working with officers on a solution. The best solution was to defer the making of the local law to give officers time to draft administrative guidelines and review the words of the local law so it wouldn't impact on the homeless.

In speaking to the deferral motion I reiterated to the gallery the law was only ever about addressing camping and was never about penalising the homeless. We need time to get the law right for the future, this council would never use this law against homeless people, but we need to get it right so any future council couldn't use it in this way.

It was a regrettable unintended consequence of the wording, the law was never about criminalising homelessness.

Council will work with legal advocates for homeless people and agencies involved with assisting homeless people to ensure the law achieves what council wants without penalising those most disadvantaged in our society.

Councillors voted unanimously to defer the local law, it will come back to us by the end of March, 2011 when we will consider it again.

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