Churches opening their doors to shelter homeless people across Melbourne have been told to shut them again because they don’t have appropriate building permits, the Herald Sun reports.
The bureaucratic madness could see hundreds of Victorians forced to sleep in parks or cars instead of inside buildings, with volunteers pleading for common sense to fix the issue.
Stable One’s Winter Shelter program has seen a union of churches come together to offer beds to homeless people in the Yarra Ranges for the past three years, with volunteers staying awake overnight to monitor the people inside.
Similar programs have been rolled out in Maroondah, Bendigo, Sunbury and Wangaratta, with groups from interstate now following the format.
But a building inspector in Yarra Ranges issued a notice declaring the charitable service “illegal” and threatened action against the group because churches should have upgraded kitchens, emergency lighting, fire alert systems, and accessibility to the buildings.
Managing Director of Stable One, Jenny Willetts, said the group had to halt the program after weeks of trying to get the council and state government to intervene.
She said the program had saved the life of a woman this year who had been sleeping in a park and become sick, with volunteers later taking her to hospital where she was treated for severe fly for 10 days.
“She could have died,” Ms Willetts said.
“The council is saying you must stop doing this. The option at the moment is they go back in the park. We have put in all that work, we have volunteers awake all night and we are making connections with people.”
A spokeswoman for the VBA said it “believes the Yarra Ranges has made a strict interpretation of VBA advice”.