Backlash over plans to move CBD homeless centre 12 kms away

by | Jun 1, 2020 | News | 0 comments

The NT Government’s decision to ditch plans to open a support centre for homeless people in Darwin’s CBD has been slammed by a prominent homeless advocate.  

Last week the government announced it would instead open a 50-bed short-stay facility for remote visitors in Marrara, about 12 kilometres away.

Leah Potter, who runs the Sunset Kitchen and feeds up to 150 homeless people a night, said Darwin’s CBD had the most people sleeping rough in the Top End and badly needed services to help cater for the numbers.

Leah Potter
Leah Potter.

“We’ve got the most shameful rates of homelessness in the country, 12 times more than the national average, and this is not addressing homelessness in the city,” she said.

“It’s going to be ineffective at Marrara, it has to be in the city.

“The problem is right here in the city, that’s why I set up the soup kitchen.”

The government announced it would open three new Better Pathway Centres to support homeless Territorians in October 2018 — one in Darwin CBD, a second in the northern suburbs and a third in Palmerston.

The old Frog Hollow arts building was earmarked for a Darwin CBD facility in September 2019 to provide support services, showers and facilities to homeless.

However last week, Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics Minister Eva Lawler confirmed plans to use Frogs Hollow had been scrapped altogether.

“There is no plans for Frogs Hollow at the moment,” she told ABC radio.

Ms Lawler backed the government’s decision to open an accommodation facility at Batten Road in Marrara instead, about 12km north of Darwin.

Homeless shelter Marrara
The former worker’s camp at Marrara.

But Ms Potter said the facility would not suit the needs of the CBD’s long grassers.

“It’s a stupid idea to put it out at Marrara, no one is going to go there, no one wants to get on shuttle bus out there,” she said.   

An analysis by NT Shelter found the rate of homelessness in the Territory was 12 times the national average — with about 6 per cent of people in the NT currently experiencing homelessness at any point in time.

“(Frogs Hollow) is an appropriate site, in once central location in the CBD, we believe that is a good location for those services to be provided people will already be in the city anyway either sleeping rough or coming into town for other services,” NT Shelter chief executive Peter McMillan told ABC Radio.

Mr McMillian said it was important to still open a homelessness support centre in Darwin and Palmerston, as promised.

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