Warrawee Park Rotunda Media Response

I'm writing a piece on the closure of Warrawee Park rotunda, and am hoping to speak to Paul Klisaris. 

I'd like to ask him some general questions on 

The state of the rotunda - what items were housed there etc

The rotunda, which is made mainly of timber, is a feature of Warrawee Park and a focal point for some of our local festivals such as Live at Warrawee.

It’s also a place of shelter for families and visitors to the park and is often used for picnics.

A person experiencing long-term homelessness was accumulating a large number of items, including mattresses, food, trolleys, electrical goods and piles of rubbish that were spilling into the park and causing concern for park users and Council officers.

The rotunda needed a thorough clean as well as some painting and building maintenance checks, which are almost complete. The fence currently around the rotunda will be removed this week.

How many occupants were inhabiting it

There has been one person mainly occupying the rotunda but Council is aware that it has been used over time by other people experiencing homelessness.

Whether there had been any complaints made by the public about the rotunda

There has been complaints from members of the public who have not been able to use and enjoy the rotunda due to the accumulation of belongings of one particular person who was occupying the space. Despite Council working closely with this person to find suitable housing, they had refused to take up the offers of assistance.

What served as a catalyst for its closure

The Monash community has been very tolerant and understanding of those sleeping rough, as has Council, however the continuation of the accumulation of items and rubbish was putting the health and safety of all community members at risk.

We continue to support those sleeping rough in Monash by visiting them regularly, talking to them about their safety, health and wellbeing and working with agencies like SalvoCare and Victoria Police.

What's planned for the rotunda 

The rotunda will remain a focal point for our residents and visitors who enjoy using Warrawee Park.

What support services are available for the homeless 

Our most significant challenge is the lack of support agencies, both housing and health, that are permanently located in our community. We have written to the State Government asking for their assistance in increasing support services in Monash to meet this desperate need for support. They have responded with some temporary emergency housing but there has  been no commitment as yet to increase support services.

In early 2017, due to a marked increase in homeless people living in Monash, we assigned one of our staff to a temporary full-time position as an officer working with the homeless in Monash. We have had more than 30 reports of individuals sleeping rough in Monash in 2017 which is a significant increase on previous years.

Council has been providing ongoing and significant support to rough sleepers by helping them access workers through emergency housing services and encouraging them to take up emergency housing. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, there are a few who have not wanted to do so.

We have also provided support in helping them to navigate the Centrelink system, and helped them access welfare and material aid services.  

In research undertaken by the Brotherhood of St Lawrence on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Service in 2017, only 6% of rough sleepers were assisted out of homelessness at the end of their support. Not having a local service in Monash to link these marginalised community members makes it even more difficult in producing an effective outcome for rough sleepers. That’s why we are advocating to the State Government for an Opening Doors Homelessness Service to be located in Monash to meet this need.  

Why some have refused support services 

Rough sleepers refuse support services for a variety of reasons, these could include negative experiences navigating the service system in the past, being placed in inappropriate shared housing or housing where their safety has been put at risk by others, being unable to afford the cost or unable to be housed in their local area.  An individual’s mental health may also influence them to refuse support. These are examples only and are not an exhaustive list that explains the complex nature of rough sleeping.

Issued: Wednesday, 3 January 2018.
To: The Age
Quoting: Mayor, Councillor Paul Klisaris