‘Out of hand’: Fighting, drugs on Coast streets
WORKERS in Southport are being given portable duress alarms to get to their cars because the CBD's homeless problem is "out of hand".
Business owners say the "every day public drinking and drug use" and fighting is affecting trade and driving shoppers out of the area.
"A lot of homeless people are hanging around here and a lot of business owners have spoken about the total disrespect for the place," retailer Dale Anderson said.
"There's public drinking and drug use happening every day. There's always fights and that sort of thing. It's just getting out of hand.
"But people are scared of bringing it up because they think they'll be seen as uncaring.
"A lot of customers I've spoken to have told me they don't like coming to the CBD. They don't feel safe," he said.
Mr Anderson was sympathetic of those sleeping rough, but frustrated by associated issues.
He said more needed to be done to address mental health problems and drug and alcohol abuse.
"It's a mental health problem more than anything, I think.
"They are walking around talking to themselves. They're fighting shopping trolleys.
"Australia Fair has its own security but their hands are tied because it happens on the footpath."
Mr Anderson has lived and worked in the CBD for 20 years and said "in the last 12 months it's just got out of hand".
He said shoppers were forced to "step over homeless people" lying across shopfronts.
"I've got people coming in saying they're just shocked how bad things have gotten.
"(My workplace) has given all staff here pendant alarms which are GPS tracked so we can use them in the car park."
Mr Anderson said he was involved in the founding of Southport's Chinatown precinct, but "unfortunately people are not coming to use the precinct now".
Burrito Bar Southport employee Carolina Cerezo said the situation was "pretty bad".
"They look like they're drunk or stoned. They cause a lot of problems," she said.
"They fight a lot and sometimes they annoy the customers that are eating outside."
Ms Cerezo said she regularly spotted drug and alcohol use.
"They are homeless and they don't have money and if they do they spend it on drugs or alcohol.
"That is a way out for them. It's hard to figure out how to control that. It's pretty sad."
Other CBD business bosses said homelessness was causing problems, but were hesitant to talk.
Mr Anderson called on the State Government and Gold Coast City Council to help the CBD.
Veteran councillor Dawn Crichlow said homelessness in the area was getting worse.
"Some people are concerned about even coming into the CBD," she said.
"There's one girl who's peeing all over the street. I saw her the other day, she picks blokes up for $10 and takes them into the library toilet.
"We've got to have more accommodation."
Ms Crichlow said she wrote to the State Government about "two boarding houses in Queen St which are for sale", but did not receive a reply.
She believed Southport had become a hub for transient homeless people.
Southport MP Rob Molhoek was adamant that "this is not a Southport issue, it's a citywide issue".
He blamed a "general lack of public housing", mental health issues and said it was likely some sleeping rough had "fallen through the cracks" of the NDIS.
Mr Molhoek said homelessness was a challenging issue with no simple solution.
"It is one of those issues where you have to remain vigiliant.
"Just when you think you have it under control and things start to improve, the wheels fall off and you're back to square one."
Mr Molhoek said the State Government, council and other stakeholders "just started dialogue about setting up the Greater Southport Strategy", which will include tackling homelessness.