10 things Melbourne Council could do instead of homeless bans

The Council to Homeless Persons has joined 54 leading homelessness, housing and legal agencies, as well as church groups, to make a final appeal to the City of Melbourne to abandon the proposed bylaws which would make it illegal to sleep rough in the CBD. 

We have jointly endorsed an alternative plan, which provides 14 clear steps that the Council could adopt to continue its humanitarian response to Melbourne’s homelessness crisis, instead of laws. 

Already, 2,400 individuals and organisations have given feedback to the City of Melbourne about their proposed ‘homeless bylaws’, with 85% of them opposing new laws. Many submissions reflected the views of the Council to Homeless Persons – that the proposed bylaws are reactive, would make things worse for already very disadvantaged people, and would do nothing to tackle the root cause of homelessness; the lack of affordable housing.

City of Melbourne Councillors will soon vote on whether Melbourne is to become a city that punishes people for being homeless, or a city that continues its humanitarian track record on homelessness and sound social policy.

The collective expert advice of over 50 agencies and community groups is that new laws will do nothing to solve homelessness, and will only make things worse for already very disadvantaged people, entrenching them in the justice system, and lumping them with fines they can’t pay.

We cannot arrest our way out of the homelessness crisis. Homes fix homelessness, not laws.

The Framework – Proposed Framework For Responding Effectively To Homelessness In The City Of Melbourne – proposes a suite of evidence-based, practical alternatives that addresses the Council’s challenges, without enacting punitive and ineffective legislation. 

The plan goes from the very practical measures like more lockers and storage, clearer guidance to rough sleepers on how to manage possessions, right through to long-term solutions such as pursuing the Housing First model that reduced rough sleeping by 90% in Utah.

The City of Melbourne cannot solve this problem alone and it won’t solve it by introducing a bylaw making it a crime to sleep rough. We look forward to working closely with the City of Melbourne to manage what can only be described as a humanitarian crisis.

Watch our 60 second video: ’10 things Melbourne could do instead of banning rough sleeping’, below.


From the framework, here are 10 things Melbourne Council could do instead of homeless bans:

  1. More lockers and storage for rough sleepers. This would reduce belongings being kept on the streets and prevent people’s documents and possessions being destroyed.
  2. Clear guidance about belongings.   Like Sydney’s ‘two bags and a swag’ rule, clear communication from Council about amounts of belongings could help to strike a balance between the needs of homeless people and recognising the need for streets to be accessible.
  3. More safe spaces at night. Programs offering safe alternative to sleeping rough could be expanded and further integrated with support services that help users find permanent ways out of homelessness.
  4. Daily Support Teams. Council’s team of specialists homeless outreach workers could form a direct partnership with an external homelessness support agency to facilitate the coordination of effective responses.
  5. Training by people who’ve experienced homelessness. Training for CBD workers who are likely to encounter homelessness will enable them to give informed responses and referrals to appropriate services.
  6. Involve people experiencing homelessness in solutions. Engaging and consulting with people experiencing homelessness will help to inform effective, practical solutions
  7. Rely on existing laws (if needed). The Council and Victoria Police have a range of existing powers that could be continued to be relied on to regulate the use of public space when necessary, rather than making new, redundant laws.
  8. Adopt evidence-based approaches. Council could adopt successful approaches such as those taken by Utah, which reduced rough sleeping by 91% using the Housing First model. 
  9. Help the public to understand what causes homelessness. Helping the public understand that homelessness is due to systemic failures, not individual choices will lead to better informed responses across the community at large.
  10. Prevention. The Council could continue to support services and legal frameworks that prevent avoidable evictions into homelessness. 

 Read the full Framework here

Download a series of infographics to use on social media below.

Graphics – Against proposed bylaws – quotations from CHP submission

Graphics – Against proposed bylaws – Reasons 1-5