Ballarat City Council and Uniting Ballarat will work in partnership to provide solutions to the crime and homelessness in Little Bridge Street.
Council have reaffirmed their commitment to rejuvenating the area by building a pocket park while Uniting Ballarat will recruit more workers to provide support for people sleeping rough following concerns by traders over public safety.
Councillor Des Hudson said he is under the impression the park will go ahead and he wants to speak more with traders in the precinct to better understand concerns.
“To the best of my knowledge, the pocket park will be delivered,” he said.
“What would be great would to be have a genuine dialogue with shop owners to get a handle on what the issues are down there.”
“We want to make sure the retail in that location thrives and creates reasons for people to go there, especially coming up to the Christmas shopping period.”
Manager of housing and crisis support for Uniting Ballarat Wendy Ferguson said there are many complex aspects that need to be managed and it is rarely the rough sleepers who are causing problems.
“From our knowledge of the situation on Little Bridge Street, it is not necessarily the people who are sleeping there causing damage,” she said.
“There have been homeless people in the past who have caused damage but we are aware quite a few of the people who hang around the area are not necessarily homeless or rough sleeping.
Cr Hudson said there has been issues on Little Bridge Street for a long time and council wanted to see the precinct cleaned up but it’s not a council responsibility.
“In terms of council's role for homelessness, other than us advocating for services for people, council doesn’t have much of a role in terms of service delivery,” he said.
“There are multiple complex issues and it's very easy for people to say lets just find beds but there are issues that need to be addressed and we need to be mindful of that.”
However, Council have confirmed they are committed to the pocket park design acting as a deterrent for rough sleeping and antisocial behaviour.
Uniting Ballarat have concerns that any effort from council to deter people loitering in the area will adversely effect those who are already vulnerable.
“We try to move people off the street and into long term housing then put some support in place because evidence shows it's only half of the problem getting people off the street, it's the ongoing support that’s really needed,” Ms Ferguson said.
“We have built up relationships with police and Council and through those we hope to be advised when there are times the police or council have decided to move people on so our workers can go and assist the clients.”
Ms Ferguson said she is hopeful any changes to the precinct are managed thoughtfully and carefully.
“For a person street sleeping it is pretty traumatic.”
“People sleeping rough are not always the ones causing the problems, some have in the past but it could be anybody.”