The Shelter Seat is back highlighting support for homeless people

Guerilla artists highlighting the plight of homeless people in the Perth city centre have installed another Shelter Seat.

The park bench that can be transformed into a sleeping shelter for homeless people first appeared in Perth back in October. On the outside it features comments made by Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas back in 2019, where he outlined his plan to rid the city of homeless people.

Before he gained international attention for his comments about transgender people, Zempilas was widely criticised for his simplistic suggestions on how homeless should be addressed.

“I make no apologies for this, the homeless need to be moved out of the Hay and Murray Street malls and the surrounding areas,” he wrote in his column in the West Australian.

“Forcibly, if that’s what it takes. I’m sick of being told by people who don’t live and work in the city like I do that it’s not that bad — actually, it’s worse.

“The look, the smell, the language, the fights — it’s disgusting. A blight on our city.”

Previously the bench featuring the comments appeared in the Perth Cultural Centre, now a new one has been installed on the corner of Barrack and Wellington Street in city, a spot that was until recently a meeting place of homeless people.

In recent weeks the newly elected City of Perth council has clamped down on non-approved charities providing food to the homeless. Among those being forced to stop their services is a long running service delivered by the Salvation Army which had operated since 2013.

The City of Perth introduced a new approach to dealing with homelessness in 2019 which tries to focus all services in a single location. However due to the impact of Covid-19 it subsequently asked the Salvation Army to resume their service, but now the permission has once again been removed.

“In February 2020, the Salvation Army were approved to deliver a roving outreach service on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights in the City of Perth, this approval did not include the provision of food,” a spokeswoman for the city told WA Today.

“During the height of COVID-19 in Perth, the Salvation Army were approved to offer a breakfast service between 7am-9am for people experiencing homelessness – this service was for a short period of time.

“However, the Salvation Army extended food service delivery to Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings without prior approval and co-ordination with the city.

“The Salvation Army, once made aware, are ceasing the food service.”

Art group Heavy Duty said their installation was in response to public furniture being removed from parks and an dramatic increase in the number of ‘move on’ noticed being issued by police.

Update:  07-12-20 10:00 Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas has highlighted that the Salvation Army were not asked to stop providing their food service. In what appears to be a contrary statement made by a City of Perth spokesperson, Zempilas said the the Salvation Army were simply asked to relocated their service.

Posting to his Twitter account, Zempilas said some of the comments being circulated were simply incorrect or flat out misleading. Zempilas said the Salvation Army and other providers had been asked to relocate their services to Moore Street.

OIP Staff

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