AS Perth city council seeks to ban beggars from its streets, Fremantle is putting out a welcome mat.
“We have to reduce the problem rather than just shift it,” says mayor Brad Pettitt, a critic of Perth’s hardline stance.
“I just don’t think that it can realistically work.”
He says Fremantle council has reached an informal agreement with beggars about where they can sit to ask for money.
“We have to reduce the problem rather than just shift it,”
A homeless man the Herald spoke to praises Fremantle for its humanity: “They’re so good.”
He’s seen three or four more people join him on port city streets in just the past week, following Perth’s crackdown, noting “you can’t sit down because there is nowhere to sit”.
When occasionally asked to shift from outside shops, he’s happy to comply, saying he understands the council has rules.
He describes Perth’s attitude as “terrible”: “We’re not out here because we want to be.”
Perth lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi makes no apologies.
“Everyone has options,” she says.
“Passers-by are not always able to identify whether beggars are genuinely in need or seeking to supplement their incomes.
“I suggest that people donate to charities that can provide the services that people in begging situations most need.”
The council is asking the state government to outlaw begging in the Perth CBD.
St Patrick’s CEO Steve McDermott says “targeting begging does not address the underlying causes of homelessness and may serve to further disadvantage the most vulnerable in our society”.
by DARCY HARWOOD