Authorities aware of anti-social behaviour at emergency accommodation sites
Authorities say concerns about drug activity and anti-social behaviour at an East Melbourne serviced apartment block and hotel being used to house people experiencing homelessness are being taken seriously.
The Comfort Inn Hotel and City Edge Apartments at 90 and 92 Albert St are being used as emergency accommodation sites by specialist homelessness agencies, however, reports of drug activity, graffiti, and rubbish being dumped in and around the buildings has left residents feeling unsafe.
A frustrated resident, James Bartolo, aired his concerns at a City of Melbourne council meeting in August about the situation, saying authorities “need to step up”.
“The disrespect to the neighbours of East Melbourne, the graffiti, the rubbish but most of all the dealing and taking of drugs. This has been going on from the beginning of COVID and is still going on,” he said.
“This is a serious and urgent discussion which many in East Melbourne are not aware of. We are now desperate with elderly residents not feeling safe in their own homes which they have owned and resided in for over 30 years.”
Victoria Police said it was aware of concerns raised by residents which it was “continuing to work with The Salvation Army and the City of Melbourne to address the matters”.
“If an offence is detected, police will deal with the matter at hand. Anyone who commits criminal or anti-social behaviour that puts the community at risk can expect a swift response from police,” a Victoria Police spokesperson said.
However, in a statement, Homes Victoria said “no notable matters of concern” had been raised regarding the small number of people being accommodated at the sites.
“While most people staying in hotels do the right thing, incidents of antisocial behaviour among people in emergency hotel accommodation are sometimes reported,” a Department of Families, Fairness and Housing spokesperson said.
“Where necessary, Homes Victoria works with police, specialist homelessness services and other key parties (including local councils) to ensure that any incidents of anti-social behaviour are dealt with appropriately.”
“Homes Victoria does not tolerate anti-social behaviour in accommodation it owns or leases from third party providers. We take all incidents and complaints seriously and are committed to addressing them collaboratively with our housing and support providers.”
Rebecca Vouch, the executive director of the East Melbourne Child Care Co-Operative, which is situated near Albert St, said they had experienced “trouble from time to time” but always called police.
“We’re always cautious of people in the park [at Powlett Reserve] but we just ring the police straight away. We don’t even give them a second chance,” she said.
“We now leave our lights on at the front entrance of the centre, otherwise we have people trying to sleep in that area,” she said.
“Safety is a priority for us, being in a park is a risk for us but we deal with that seriously – we don’t tolerate anything.”
Ms Vouch made no suggestion that the anti-social behaviour they had experienced was connected to the guests staying at the Comfort Inn Hotel and City Edge Apartments, only that it was an issue, which had also seen a person threaten a staff member with a syringe before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Local resident Ray Galea told Inner City News that he was concerned to find syringes dumped in the front garden beds of his apartment block.
“You hear them late at night. If I’m there, I’ll pop out and tell them to move on. Most residents are scared to confront people like that,” he said.
“It’s not as bad as it was but it’s constantly there.”
But he noted, “You’ve got the East Melbourne gardens just behind us, it’s such a beautiful spot with families there and who knows what’s floating around, that’s what concerns me.”
The City of Melbourne did not respond to questions about issues at the Comfort Inn Hotel and City Edge Apartments, but noted since August, it had received 10 requests lodged by East Melbourne residents in relation to graffiti (six), dumped rubbish (two) and syringe collection (two).
“Our officers have proactively patrolled the area and we encourage all residents to report matters via the City of Melbourne website,” it said.
The East Melbourne Group, which represents the community’s voice, said the matters at Albert St accommodation buildings were a “complex issue requiring multi-party consultation and solutions”. •