351. Hon ALISON XAMON to the minister representing the Minister for Police:
I refer to reports about rough sleepers being issued move-on notices by the Western Australia Police Force during the COVID-19 emergency.
(1) How many move-on notices have been issued by police to rough sleepers since 16 March 2020?
(2) What guidance, if any, have police been given regarding the use of move-on notices during the COVID-19 pandemic?
(3) When police issue move-on notices to rough sleepers, do they make efforts to ensure that the person given a move-on notice has somewhere safe to go?
(4) Are police undertaking any work with either the Department of Communities or community sector organisations to address the issue of rough sleepers during the pandemic?
Hon STEPHEN DAWSON replied:
I thank the honourable member for some notice of the question. The following answer has been provided to me by the Minister for Police.
The Western Australia Police Force advises that homelessness is not an offence and police address offending and antisocial behaviour involving homeless people. The broader aim of police is to assist homeless people to access support services.
(1) Police do not record move-on notices issued specifically to homeless people. Homeless people could be given move-on notices for any number of reasons similar to other members of the community, understanding that it is not an offence to be homeless.
(2) Under the state of emergency direction for the COVID-19 pandemic, a person must not organise or attend a mass gathering. A mass gathering is defined as a gathering of 500 or more persons in a single undivided outdoor space; a gathering of 100 or more persons in a single undivided indoor space; or a gathering of two or more persons in a single undivided outdoor space where there is not at least four square metres of space for each person at that gathering. For example, a gathering of 10 persons in a single undivided outdoor space at the same time is a mass gathering if the space is not at least 40 square metres in area. Police observing and attending to any breach of this direction assess the situation and attempt to identify a person in control or with authority in the location, and instruct the person and any person in attendance that they are breaching the mass gathering direction and that they are required to cease the gathering and disperse immediately. Should the breach of the direction immediately cease, no further action is taken. Police may consider the use of move-on orders, notices, under the Criminal Investigation Act 2006 in the first instance or issuance of an infringement for the breach of direction.
The policing response to homeless people or “rough sleepers” has not varied as a result of the declaration of the state of emergency, with the exception being the requirement for social distancing. Police continue to work jointly with local government authorities, the Department of Communities and key non-government organisation outreach services. Interagency meetings are coordinated between police, local government and NGOs with respect to a joint response to issues arising from homeless, rough sleepers and street-present people.
(3) When police engage with rough sleepers or the homeless, formal and informal referrals to service providers are generally offered. Police have close working relationships with non-government organisations that are assisting homeless people. Unfortunately, on many occasions offers of assistance are declined by rough sleepers and homeless people.
(4) Western Australia’s “10-Year Strategy on Homelessness 2020–30” led by the Department of Communities provides a guide for government agencies to coordinate the issue of homelessness. The WA Police Force was involved in the development of the strategy and its ongoing work.