In the Public Eye: personal stories of homelessness and fines

Six people. Six personal accounts of what it's like to be homeless and caught up in the fines system

Anthony, Richard, Emma, Darren, Hamish* and Julia* remind us that homelessness can happen to anyone at any time in their lives. Different factors pushed each person into homelessness, including job loss, an uncertain and unaffordable private rental market, battles with substance use and relationship breakdown.

While homeless, they received thousands of dollars in fines for 'public space offences' like travelling on public transport without a ticket, being drunk in a public place and begging.

They talk about being homeless and living in the public eye and the risk of being targeted by officers giving fines. They call for greater insight from the people who give fines. They ask the very sensible question: what's the point of fining people who clearly can't pay?

The current fines system in Victoria does not address the underlying causes of a person's offending.

Fining people for being homeless is not the solution - there is a better way.


We are grateful for the generous contribution of the six people who dedicated their time to share their insights about being homeless and getting fined. We express our sincere thanks - it was a privilege to work with each of you.

Homeless Law conveys its enormous gratitude to Jon Frank and Marieka Jacobs from Quiver Communications whose film and photography expertise captured these personal stories so beautifully.

Anthony

2 November 2013
Anthony became homeless in his late 20s. He slept rough and couch surfed for about two years and he got about $3000 in fines for travelling on public transport without a ticket, having his feet on the train seat and possessing an open container of liquor. Anthony now feels hopeful about his future. He is in recovery, has stable housing and is looking forward to returning to work or study.

Emma

2 November 2013
Emma became homeless at 16. During her time sleeping on the streets she got fines for not having a tram ticket and for begging. Emma now has two young sons. She is still in unsafe housing but hopes that with the right support she will move to safety soon. Other than her housing issue, she is doing well.

Darren

2 November 2013
Darren has been homeless on and off for almost fifteen years and has struggled with alcohol addiction since his teens. A combination of these two factors has resulted in him getting about $15,000 in fines. He is now in stable accommodation; working on his recovery and moving towards a better life.

Richard

2 November 2013
Richard was homeless for four years after his relationship broke down. He got $4,500 in fines for travelling on trams without a ticket. Richard now has stable housing in shared accommodation. He lives close to shops and services and tops up his Myki card with $20 every fortnight.

Julia

2 November 2013
Julia* found herself homeless after having to leave private rental. During her time staying in emergency accommodation and couch surfing she accrued about $2000 in fines for travelling on public transport without a ticket and failing to vote. It's hard to know when and where to vote when you don't have a fixed address. Julia hopes to move into stable housing in the next 12 months and go back to university. This is her story.

Hamish

2 November 2013
Hamish* has been homeless since his mid-teens. He got about $13,000 in fines on public transport. He hasn't had any fines in two years..