Amidst an event that is expected to bring in more than half a million people into the city, protesters will set up banners and blankets to make Melbourne’s homelessness crisis – and the dangers that the rough sleeping ban poses to those experiencing homelessness – as visible as possible.
The protest is organised by the Houses Need People, People Need Houses group, who are working to prevent the ban from taking effect. Following a 74 per cent increase in Melbourne’s homeless count over the last two years, the Melbourne City Council have endorsed a plan that will make it more difficult for people to sleep on the streets. Groups like Houses Need People, People Need Houses have criticised the policy on the grounds that it fails to address some of the real problems at hand; for example, the long waiting list for public housing, lack of short-term crisis accommodation, the cost of rooming houses and the fact that these places are often unsafe for some of society’s most vulnerable people.
Through this protest – which is expected to involve people experiencing homelessness and others joining them in solidarity – organisers hope to create awareness around the rough sleeping ban, which could take effect next month. Last week, Melbourne councillors endorsed the proposal, and will now undergo 28 days of public consultation before the local laws take effect.
If you’re thinking of getting involved in the protest and camp-out, make sure you come prepared. Organisers have suggested that protesters bring food and blankets, prepare for a cold night, and look after each other.
If you're heading out for White Night, look out for 'Home Less' (above), a projection piece on the exterior of St Paul's Cathedral, by Melbourne artist Chase Burns, which challenges the common tendency to ignore those sleeping rough.