Respite for homeless during the heat
Youth Projects' drop-in centre in Hosier Lane offers some of the city's more vulnerable a place to go during the hot weather in Melbourne.PT2M14S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-31pfq 620 349 January 30, 2014
Melbourne's lord mayor wants to introduce an extreme weather policy for the vulnerable, after a string of concerning reports and incidents involving the city's homeless.
Robert Doyle said the stabbing death of Wayne ''Mousey'' Perry and January's protracted heatwave had been ''wake-up calls'' about the hardships faced by Melbourne's rough sleepers.
He said he was heartened by the concern shown by Melburnians following a Fairfax Media report about homeless people being chased from airconditioned public spaces.
Delwyn Block cools off in the pool. Photo: Justin McManus
''It still makes news in this city, [while] in other cities this passes as unremarkable,'' Cr Doyle said.
''Doesn't that tell you something about the heart of our city?''
In response to the story, 5000 tubes of sunscreen and $2000 cash were received by one CBD charity.
The council has been giving free pool passes to the homeless and also allows the public to shelter in its libraries. But Cr Doyle said he wanted an official extreme weather policy to be enforced on hot and cold days, making public spaces ''oases'' for the homeless, elderly and very young.
''I don't think there needs to be a trigger point … It doesn't have to be 40 degrees until we offer this,'' he said. ''Some options may include opening up our city buildings as places of refuge and the provision of water in parks and other public places.
''We are happy to work with groups such as Melbourne City Mission, Sacred Heart Mission, Vinnies and the Salvos on any innovative ideas to help. For instance, services already provide icy poles in summer and overcoats in winter; small things, but helpful.''
A hot weather policy for the city was first suggested by Youth Projects, which runs a free medical clinic for homeless in the CBD. Its 2009 report on the treatment of homeless people during the Black Saturday heat went largely ignored until this month.
The group's chairwoman, Melanie Raymond, said she would like an extreme weather policy to include access to medical treatment, extended operating hours for drop-in centres, and ''certainty around when the policy operates''.
She said her clients had been suffering from seizures and aggravated skin conditions caused by mite bites during the hot spell. ''We are seeing hydration, confusion, scabies and a whole variety of skin conditions that come with poor hydration.''
The clinic had given out a number of the council's pool passes, but Ms Raymond said she was not certain how many had been used.
Salvation Army Major Brendan Nottle said although some of the homeless people he spoke with could not swim, they had been touched that they had been thought of.
Magpie Nest housing project resident Delwyn Block, 53, said she had never been given a free pass in her life. ''I was really rapt about it.''