Published on Sunday 19, March 2017

Lawyers on the beat 

Community Legal Centres believe in empowering vulnerable people to have a say about laws that affect them.

We also believe that it’s just for all people to have access to lawyers and legal advice.

This is why a group of inner city CLCs including cohealth, Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre, Justice Connect, Homeless Law and Fitzroy Legal Service went to a homeless support service to meet with people at risk of being impacted by the proposal to criminalise sleeping rough, and to provide them with legal information.

Around 40 people experiencing or at risk of homelessness came along to the event, where we talked to them to find out whether they had specific legal problems and to find out how they felt about the proposed changes to the local laws.

Justice Connect outlined the proposed changes and what they would mean for people sleeping rough, Flemington-Kensington talked about the power of police to move people along, and IMCL let people know that homelessness can be taken into account when dealing with their fines. Justice Connect wrapped up the session with information about what to do when issued with a criminal charge.

It was another great example of community legal centres working together to help our local communities understand the law, as the legal system can be complex and foreign.

People affected had a lot to say about the Council’s proposals. They felt decision-makers have no concept of what it’s like being on the street. A young man explained that “you can’t carry your home on your back wherever you go”.

On the day we also provided confidential advice appointments.

We saw someone who had amassed a pile of fines, who we can help make an application to have his fines reviewed due to their connection with his homelessness.

We also saw a woman who became homeless because of family violence. She told us that the only crisis housing available to her is unsafe and would “just transfer me from one violent situation to another. The CBD streets are safer.”

Click here to view our submission against these proposed changes.