Consultation: The issue of permanent campers in Huntly Lions Park was debated in last month’s council meeting. Photo: JONATHON MAGRATH

Support discussed for permanent campers

July 22, 2021 BY

THE City of Greater Bendigo has met with Haven Home Safe, Parks Victoria and Victoria Police to discuss ways to support homeless people in the region.

In last month’s council meeting, the issue of campers staying long-term at Huntly Lions Park was debated, with council voting against changing the park’s status as a public campsite to a regulated reserve.

Mayor Cr Jennifer Alden said “rough sleepers” at Huntly Lions Park is an ongoing challenge for council and that partner agencies would assist the municipality in managing issues relating to long-term stays at the site.

“It was agreed all agencies will undertake regular visits together and provide outreach to the campers, in an effort to build relationships and help improve behaviour and amenity of the park,” she said.

“The meeting also focused on the designated use of public land across Greater Bendigo, some of which can be used for short-term camping, however the City does not provide any long-term camping grounds.

“To remove the option of short-term camping involves changes to the reservation purpose, which can take up to six months.

“Also, in doing so and evicting people from these sites, the rough sleepers will move elsewhere in the community and divert the problem but not solve it.”

Cr Alden said there are currently over 2700 people on low-income housing waiting lists in Greater Bendigo.

“Following council’s decision last month, the City has committed to working with Haven Home Safe to relocate current campers at Huntly Lions Park and review the status of the park in early 2022,” she said.

“There will be monthly meetings to plan a way forward and consider where local laws changes can be made, keeping in mind that alone will not solve this social challenge.”

In a statement, a representative from Haven Home Safe said they will continue to work closely with the City to find “more suitable accommodation for people currently camped at the Huntly Lions Park.

“In the meantime, our outreach team is regularly monitoring the situation, engaging with the campers on-site, and providing material aid and wrap-around supports,” the statement said.