For rat’s sake: Pollies at war over homeless
TWO of the Gold Coast's youngest MPs are at war about how to solve the homeless crisis on the Gold Coast as the debate turns nasty.
Rookie councillor Ryan Bayldon-Lumsden has been criticised by Bonney MP Sam O'Connor after he talked about "feeds' and keeping "people on the wheel".
The Bulletin's Trouble on the Streets series has highlighted a 100-person group of homeless in the Southport CBD and risks for children as young as 11 under the care of Child Safety camping in Surfers Paradise.
Despite the State being the lead agency, the council responded this week by announcing it would develop a homeless action policy and employ two temporary full-time officers as part of a trial sparking concerns about a crackdown on vulnerable people sleeping in parks.
Cr Bayldon-Lumsden in a Facebook post wrote: "I agree that food is a necessity, however on it's own just keep people on the wheel. I have requested feed groups to be paired with health services so that those experiencing difficult times can be guided in the right direction and get the support they need."
Some residents were "disgusted" by the post, suggesting it should be deleted.
"How we care for the homeless does need to be addressed but language like you've written is divisive and inhumane," a resident wrote.
Bonney LNP MP Sam O'Connor, who knew Mr Bayldon-Lumsden before being elected to council in March through his membership with the LNP, joined the chorus of critics.
"I'm disappointed with the tone of the councillor's comments," Mr O'Connor said.
"Saying feeds keep these people 'on the wheel' is comparing them to rodents. Language is important and in everything we say we can't forget that we are talking about people."
Cr Bayldon-Lumsden strongly rejected the suggestion he was referring to the homeless as rats, adding that as a teacher he had worked with disabled children for more than a decade making him aware of the importance of health support.
"I come from a disability support background. My approach has always been the health services is what's lacking," he said.
"A lot of people are pushing for a policing approach to homelessness - it's not going to be resolved through enforcement and policing."
"These two new officers will be out on the ground liaising with the community. And they will have a great opportunity to direct the homeless community to the support services they need.
"In terms of the on-the-wheel comment, I'm saying the feed groups on their own is not really supporting an outcome. It's helping people get by day-by-day."
"I'm pushing for all the groups to be paired with some sort of service so that when people access them they can be given a hand up rather than a hand up," he said.
Mr O'Connor was also critical of council officers undertaking "a crackdown on vagrants".
"Vagrancy is not illegal. It hasn't been for a long time in Queensland," he said.
"We can't and shouldn't arrest our way out of homelessness. Of course if someone on the street breaks the law then they should be held to account, just as anyone else would be, but being homeless is not an offence."
Originally published as For rat's sake: Coast pollies at war over homeless