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Councillor blasts "offensive" campaign to move Hutt Street Centre

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The Adelaide City Council should have nothing to do with a residents’ group pushing to have the Hutt Street Centre relocated, a councillor says, because of a series of “offensive” photographs it has published online.

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North Ward councillor Phil Martin says several photos on the website of the Hutt Street Residents’ Association, an organisation with which the city council has no formal relationship, unfairly target individuals sitting or standing in public space as “ugly” and “bad”.

Premier Steven Marshall has agreed to meet with the residents’ group and the Hutt Street Traders Association, who this morning jointly released an open letter to the Premier, urging him to facilitate a relocation of Hutt Street Centre for the homeless.

They say anti-social behaviour and violence is escalating in Hutt Street and that Marshall needs to intervene.

However, SA Police continue to assert that there has not been a recent spike in anti-social behaviour or violence in the area.

Martin told InDaily he was appalled by the photographs featured on the residents’ group’s website.

“What’s particularly offensive (is that) under the heading of ‘the ugly’, there’s pictures of Aboriginal people just standing in the street,” he said.

“Under the heading of ‘the bad’, there’s a photograph of Aboriginal people simply sitting on the footpath … it’s offensive in the extreme to all fair-minded, reasonable people.”

Some of the photographs to which Martin refers show people, clearly identified, sitting and standing in front of shops showing ‘For Sale’ or ‘For Lease’ signs – illustrating the group’s concern about the high vacancy rate in Hutt Street – but one simply shows a group of people standing or sitting on the footpath.

The residents’ association website.

The website also features photographs of police speaking with people outside of Hutt Street Centre and videos of two altercations, a person urinating in public and a group of Aboriginal people shouting.

Under ‘the good’, the website features a series of photographs showing upmarket houses and stone fronted cottages, as well as a photo of the Hutt Street median strip labelled with a “the Village in the City” motto.

InDaily attempted to contact Wayne Copley, a spokesperson for the Hutt Street Residents’ Association, but he did not respond.

Copley told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that his group expected to be called “NIMBYs” but that “we see, first-hand, the plight of the people (who use Hutt Street Centre)”.

“The Hutt Street Centre is overwhelmed,” he said.

“It can’t operate, it can’t expand; it can’t rebuild in a residential setting and expect that there’ll be harmony going forward.

“(This) is just going to exacerbate and escalate.”

He added: “We want investment in helping these people.”

Lord Mayor Martin Haese said the Hutt Street Centre would have to be able to guarantee that an expanded facility on the same site would reduce antisocial behaviour in the street – or else it would be reasonable to expect that an expansion might only exacerbate safety issues.

“All of this isn’t to say that the services of the Hutt Street Centre aren’t valued – of course they’re valued,” he said.

“(However) It would be quite reasonable to expect that expanding the centre would … exacerbate the problems.”

He added, however, that homelessness services probably needed to be better funded to deal with increasing demand, and urged all involved to maintain a social conscience during the public debate.

Haese added that the council was almost “exhausted” and that the it was the State Government’s role to step in and ensure that policing and human services were being delivered adequately to make people feel safe in the area.

Hutt Street Centre board chairman Phil Donato told InDaily this morning that the centre “acknowledges this group’s concerns and as we have always stated, our door is open to discuss the issue at hand in a collaborative and constructive manner”.

“We are currently engaging all key stakeholders including state and local government, traders and residents through formal channels such as the City of Adelaide working party.

“In regards to a decision on the move, Hutt St Centre is reviewing its current service delivery model and is undertaking extensive consultation with a range of stakeholders to ensure that when a decision is made, it is in the best interest of Adelaide’s homeless population as well as the wider community.”

Donato said he had yet to see the images on the residents’ association’s website.

Hutt Street Traders’ Association spokesperson Collette Slight said her group and the residents’ association “aren’t anti-welfare; we’re compassionate people”.

She said her group wanted the Hutt Street Centre moved elsewhere, to prevent anti-social behaviour in the precinct.

“If they are rebuilding (the Hutt Street Centre) it would be better done … not in a dining precinct and a residential precinct.”

Slight said there had been an assault at the Hutt Street IGA last week and that “the week before, there’ve been people arrested with knives”.

She said anti-social behaviour in the street was not being reported to police, but that it occurred “every other day”.

A spokesperson for SA Police told InDaily this morning that: “We have not received any reports that would suggest a recent spike in anti-social behaviour or violent crime in the area.”

“We encourage people working or living in the area to report any anti-social or criminal behaviour to police so patrols can respond in a timely fashion.

“The wider issues that are associated with this matter are not just policing matters but require a whole-of-society response.”

Minister for Human Services Michelle Lensink told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that “everybody would acknowledge that the Hutt Street (Centre’s) work is very, very important and very needed”.

“They’ve operated in that particular area for decades without problems, and I think most people in this space acknowledge that these services are required and that the majority of clients of the centre are not causing the problems.

“In fact, they’re quite vulnerable and probably more likely to be victims of crime than they are to be perpetrators.”

– with additional reporting by Stephanie Richards.

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