There was recent speculation in the media that the City of Fremantle was intending to introduce by-laws to ban begging, especially after the Mayor was canvassed on the issue by the 7:30 Report. A discussion paper proposing such a thing was drafted by officers on the propmting of some CBD business operators. Below is a letter on the proposal I wrote that was published in the Fremantle Herald:
A number of letters writers to the Herald (August 18) rightly questioned the idea that the City of Fremantle might try to ban begging on the streets to "improve" the shopping environment. It's clear that this would be very hard to enforce; and even if it could be done, would just push people from place to place without tackling the underlying causes.
Proposals to regulate busking, charity collecting and begging were drawn up by officers and circulated to councillors for comment. However there is no formal proposal before council and certainly not yet consensus in favour of any particular measure. Why it became an ABC 7:30 Report segment I don't know.
With housing stress really starting to bite, the City and community really do need to have more discussion about housing affordability solutions in general; and homelessness in particular.
It's an unfortunate fact that the City of Fremantle is doing substantially less to assist homeless young people than it used to. In 2010 the City closed its Youth Crisis Accommodation Service. I put a motion to council to stop this, but only won the support of Councillors Wilson and Sullivan.
The service was co-funded by the state government and the City. To their credit St Pats stepped in and established a replacement service and picked up the state government funding. But the extra $300,000 per year that the City had been putting in was lost. Now we need a positive debate about the things we can do to make up the lost ground.
Of course we should be concerned about small businesses in the CBD that are struggling. But I doubt that pushing the most disadvantaged and vulnerable off our streets will put any extra money through the tills. The fact that Fremantle has a real, vibrant, gritty and uncensored street life is part of what makes it great - most of the time! It's a community and business central business district, not a private shopping mall. There's more than enough places in Perth where people can get the anti-septic shopping mall experience.
Let's focus on the positive things that will bring more shoppers, residents and workers into the city: There has already been some real progress in terms of urban renewal. We're spending nearly ten times as much on cycling infrastructure as we were in 2009 (off a very low base), encouraging locals to ride into town and free up parking for those coming from further away. We have an improved council run visitors centre. There's a 15% affordable housing target built into our new inner city planning policy and much more.
It should be obvious, we can revitalise inner city Fremantle and be a leader in social justice.
Councillor - Hilton Ward