‘Disgusted’: Charity 'barred' from feeding homeless
THE founder of a long-running charity says he will defy Gold Coast City Council orders and continue to feed dozens of homeless people, because it would be "inhumane" not to.
You Have a Friend Founder John Lee said he was threatened with a $667 fine or a court-imposed notice of more than $6670 just before Christmas for feeding the homeless at Goodwin Park, Coolangatta, without a permit.
"I have been advised by the city laws officer who gave me an official warning to stop feeding the homeless without a compliance certificate, that a compliance certificate is required if we are feeding over 50 people," said Mr Lee, a homeless campaigner for nearly 20 years.
"We support no more than 40 homeless persons at our breakfasts. I said to the council the permit doesn't apply to me, we don't qualify.
"They said 'you'll go to court' and I said take me to court'. Everyone will want to know what the council is doing."
It comes after another homelessness charity, Agape Outreach, said it was told to move from Goodwin Park to private land and to scale back meals to once a week.
Agape founding director Theresa Mitchell told the Bulletin last week that her clients were "devastated" and the "basic human rights of our most disadvantaged are being taken away".
Mr Lee said the latest council decision was "inhumane, arbitrary and totally unacceptable".
He said the homeless he worked with were "not drug addicts, alcoholics or dangerous people" but those "life has dealt a bad blow to".
He said the charity had "for many years" requested a copy of the council's policies on homelessness "and received nothing".
In response, a council spokesman said the City required operators delivering homelessness services to obtain a permit since 2008 and it had "attempted to work with this group in order to obtain the appropriate approval".
"The City acts on complaints when it comes to matters of illegal camping," they said.
"When officers suspect a vulnerable person is involved, attempts are made to connect the person with relevant services.
"The City continues to work very closely with the Department of Housing and Public Works, Queensland Health, Specialist Homeless Services and Queensland Police Service to ensure the safety and welfare of all Gold Coast residents."
Mr Lee said he was also worried about homeless people being "hounded and chased" away by council officers, but the council did not address those concerns.
Last week, the Bulletin reported on ill homeless man Graeme Aitken, 66, who was fined a second time by the council for illegally camping at Burleigh Beach.
He has been parked near public toilets due to a debilitating bladder condition and said he had a doctor's certificate and a letter from a surgeon explaining his plight.
Mr Aitken said he was slugged with another $650 on top of the $1200 fines issued in August.
More than 2100 people in the Gold Coast and Tweed identified as homeless during the last census in 2016.
The number of people on the waiting list for social housing on the Gold Coast ballooned 25 per cent in the year to June 30 to 4543. It includes 786 families with children and about 980 over-55s.