Recently, the press has shown revealing and emotional interviews with those occupying the prestige locale of Martin Place in Sydney.
Very often the interviews exposed the main cause of this new living habitat as the need for social, safe and caring living. The tent city residents were scared to live in government planned housing solutions, parks or even with friends. Some appeared to have migrated out of sheer desperation due to the unaffordability of housing or because they had fallen on bad times.
These people are safe in Martin Place and safety often provokes creativity. Some are talking of cooperatives and presenting their needs more eloquently to the state government.
They are not complaining so much about square metres. They want a safe communal space to live in.
Why not turn barren unused land often overgrown with weeds to “plot living”? Provide portable sleeping modules with a small sitting space, interconnecting spaces or a courtyard the residents can make more attractive and perhaps use to build commercial enterprises.
Mobile medical or social services will reduce high rent city offices and bring public services to where they are needed – on the ground and not behind cold desks.
Unless we start looking at the needs of these people who are growing in numbers, we are bound to face long-term social problems as no doubt these helpless people will eventually be exploited by some.
Tent city residents are really refugees in their own state with nowhere to call home.
Take the 1960 and 1970s: communes and kibbutzes grew out of need of similar frustration with social issues and a community flourished. These residents tried to become self-sufficient and developed creative means of survival. Many of the principles they learnt or developed have become buzz words for the green inner city living folks.
Some such communities are still here, with people living in a more orderly format, while others have disappeared due to infighting and power struggles which was the reason commune residents had left the normal society in the first place!
The communes realised the commercial and selfish world never really left the heart of many of their residents, but at least they learnt something and became the pioneers of big business today.
People need a built environment that breeds social fairness, safety and empowers creativity. How can we reach that goal through good planning decisions? Governments must think of the new habitat and discard their old hats.