Suburb residents have been letterboxed with claims the area will become 'Housing Commission’' under a plan to protect the homeless from coronavirus.
Suburb residents have been letterboxed with claims the area will become 'Housing Commission’' under a plan to protect the homeless from coronavirus.

Leaflet stirs up tension on homeless plan for ritzy suburb

A leaflet claiming a riverfront part of Toowong will be invaded by 300 "drug addicts and prisoners'' has been letterboxed after news the Government will move at-risk people into a student highrise.

Housing Minister Mick de Brenni quietly released a statement about the plan on Good Friday, blindsiding both the LNP Councillor for Walter Taylor, James Mackay, and the state Greens MP for the area, Michael Berkman.

Neither was consulted, with Cr Mackay discovering the plan, second-hand, on Thursday.

Mr Berkman also heard about it that day, after angry residents contacted him.

Residents of hostels in Spring Hill and West End began moving into the 520-room Atira highrise on Glen Rd on Friday.

The Department of Housing has taken out a 12-month lease with owner Scape, which moved

about 280, mostly Chinese, students studying at the University of Queensland to nearby student accommodation also owned by Scape.

It is believed Indooroopilly police will increase patrols of the area.

A leaflet was letterboxed on Friday under the headline "Toowong Housing Commission?''

"The Department of Housing is moving 300 "vulnerable (drug addicts, homeless, just out of prison etc) people into a student accommodation block near your home,'' it read.

"How dare the State Government do this without community consultation?? SHAME.

"How dare your Green MP, Michael Berkman, support this without telling us about it?? SHAME.

"Why did they quietly announced this on Good Friday when they knew no one was paying attention?? SHAME.

"Why did the Government take a 12-month lease if it's for "crisis accommodation??

"Ask yourself, what does this mean for your family?''



Mr Berkman said the COVID-19 crisis "requires us all to take extraordinary measures to ensure everyone has a roof over their heads, and somewhere they can safely self-isolate''.

"But that's no excuse for the Government to completely shut the community and me out of the decision, and to make an announcement like this under the cover of the Easter weekend.

"Locals have every reason to be frustrated, as I am.

"It's incredibly frustrating for me to find out about this from concerned residents, not from the Minister or his department, and after the decision has been announced.

"Unfortunately, someone in the community has taken it upon themselves to spread misinformation and fear about this, letterboxing the neighbourhood with a flyer containing a number of untruths and inflammatory language, suggesting that our neighbourhood is about to be flooded with "drug addicts, homeless" and people "just out of prison".

"This is an incredibly disappointing development.

"This is unfair, divisive, and I don't believe for a second this is how most of us here in our community feel.

"In these times of heightened fear and anxiety it's vital that we look after each other and support our most vulnerable members of society.

"The Department of Housing has support structures in place for people transitioning from homelessness, or those with substance dependence issues, and they're under immense pressure at the moment dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.''



Cr Mackay said he was furious.

"This is a 12 month impact on the local community, yet no residents were consulted and the first I heard about it was early (Thursday) afternoon, second-hand - not through official channels.

"They've done this under the cover of Easter. What have they got to hide?

"These people desperately need our help, but that's not the issue here - what I'm angry about is the fact that the Government has totally disregarded the local community.

"When were they going to tell us? Anyone who supports the way this process was handled should be ashamed of themselves.''

Bric Housing, St Vincent de Paul, Mission Australia and the Salvation Army were consulted with about the arrangement.

"Whether it's joining the Care Army, or giving up your own home to save lives, this initiative shows young Queenslanders are a generation we can all be proud of," Mr de Brenni said.

"While we're all doing our bit to stay healthy, the Palaszczuk Government has partnered with apartment operator Scape and its young residents to secure self-contained apartments for over 500 Queenslanders with current living arrangements that risk coronavirus spread.

"I extend my sincere thanks to the students and staff for "making a move the greater good".

"Their decision will absolutely save lives, in fact it could save thousands of lives.

"The new residents will have around-the-clock security and support, with meals and laundry service available too.''

Craig Carracher, from Scape, said the Atira students understood the move was for the greater good.

"If we can assist in flattening the curve, the whole community will benefit," he said.

Mr Carracher said they had up to 2000 empty beds across their six student living buildings.

Mission Australia Queensland director Darren Young said there was concern in the sector about how to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the homeless community.

At hostels such as Roma House in Spring Hill the residents lived close together and used common areas.

Moving to Atira would allow them to self isolate.

Originally published as Leaflet stirs up tension on homeless plan for ritzy suburb