Often sat in a nook along Mandurah’s Smart Street Mall, Dave and his greyhound Timba find winter a tough time.
The homeless man has called the coastal city’s inner streets home for months and said he hasn’t planned to move anytime soon because there was “nowhere to go”.
Despite Dave’s desires to stay, the City of Mandurah has other intentions.
Intentions which were made known on June 5, when Dave and another homeless man’s belongs were moved from the main strip and dumped in a back alley.
Dave said he was used to City of Mandurah employees moving his belongings from the mall but said it was different this time because it was raining and some of the items were left to soak in a puddle.
A common practice, the local government has often been called upon by Smart Street Mall businesses to help move homeless people away from their premises.
City of Mandurah chief executive officer Mark Newman highlighted the complexity of the problem and said staff and police would also do what they could to deal with the “difficult and ongoing issue” compassionately.
“We understand there is a balance between the rights of our business people and customers to go about their business in safety and the rights of those who are doing it tough,” Mr Newman said.
Mr Newman labelled the incident that saw the belongings scatted in the rain as unusual.
He said, at the time, a City of Mandurah ranger was responding to a request by a shopkeeper who wanted a group of homeless people with their dogs and trolleys to move on.
“Our ranger attended and did find a trolley and bag outside the shop, which he moved out of sight to nearby skip bins,” he said.
“It is true this meant the trolley was out in the rain.
“This is not what our rangers would not normally do but in this case, our ranger felt that to put the trolley undercover would mean putting it on private property without permission.
“In hindsight, it would have been better if we had impounded the trolley in a council storeroom.”
Dave said a sign, made by a local business, had recently been placed in the undercover area near the skip bin that read “no trolleys past this point (private property) thank you”.
He said while it was understandable it was disappointing as it was a large, dry place to stay that was out-of-sight of the general public.
“We weren’t allowed to put the trolleys out there so they chucked two trolleys out in the rain,” he said.
“We’ve had our stuff moved a coupe of times but we weren’t in the way, we were nice and tidy.”
He said there trolleys must have been in rain for a while as all his bedding was wet.
“They chucked [my mate’s] bag in a puddle of water and it got soaking wet, all his clothes and bedding,” he said.
Dave thanked the women from a nearby business who saw his belongs and bought a roll of heavy plastic sheeting to cover them.
He said it was that kind of generosity that made living on the streets easier.
The issue was thrust into the public eye when one of the women who helped, posted a status on a popular community Facebook page.
The woman voiced her disappointment with the City of Mandurah’s decision and urged employees to express more compassion for homeless people calling the Smart Street Mall home.
Mandurah’s mayor Rhys Williams said it was time Mandurah had a “sophisticated conversation” that acknowledged the people that were most vulnerable in the community and supported their needs.
“As a city, as a local government we shouldn’t shy away from our part in that support but the other part in the sophisticated conversation is that we have a responsibility to all people in our city spaces to ensure that they feel safe and secure.
“For me, we have to be able to differentiate between homelessness and anti-social behaviour.
“I think it’s a fine balance and in this incidence, I feel like we got the balance wrong.
“But there has to be that fine balance and we have to be able to support our businesses to thrive in our city centre and for our community to feel safe in those spaces and also support those that are in those circumstances to get the help that they need.”
Mr Newman said businesses within the Smart Street Mall and city centre were becoming “increasingly frustrated with antisocial behaviour and illegal conduct of individuals impacting their viability and discouraging customers”.
To counter this, the local government has invested considerable resources including beefed up security and ranger patrols, and CCTV cameras linked to the police.
“We are currently working on new ideas to positively activate this precinct and better link it with the foreshore,” Mr Newman said.
City of Mandurah have confirmed security and ranger patrols will continue to provide additional surveillance.
The local government has encouraged the community to report issues such as the blocking of walkways or aggressive begging or behaviour as they occur to 9550 3777.
Obvious illegal drug use or people clearly effected by drugs or alcohol as well as other dangerous or criminal behaviour should be reported immediately to the WA Police.
We continue to work with our State and Federal Government partners to find ways to improve the lives of those who find themselves homeless.