Businesses fed up with itinerant problems in CBD

Glenn Cordingley and Jakeb WaddellBroome Advertiser
First National Real Estate Broome principal Allan Griffiths says he is at breaking point over the mess left on the veranda of his Chinatown business by transient people.
Camera IconFirst National Real Estate Broome principal Allan Griffiths says he is at breaking point over the mess left on the veranda of his Chinatown business by transient people. Credit: Jakeb Waddell

Business leaders have spoken out about the impact itinerant people in the shopping heart of Broome are having on their livelihoods and tourism.

The problem has been festering for years and Chinatown retailers have contacted the Broome Advertiser to say it is time to make a stand.

First National Real Estate Broome principal Alan Griffiths said he had reached breaking point because the veranda of his business is used by homeless people for shelter and sleep, as well as cooking and defecating.

Temporary sleep areas set up by transient people at First National Real Estate Broome in Chinatown.
Camera IconTemporary sleep areas set up by transient people at First National Real Estate Broome in Chinatown. Credit: Jakeb Waddell.

“When it rains or they want a bit of shelter, they head for my place where they cook, sleep, urinate and defecate,” he said.

“I have paid to have large sections of tin replaced because it looked so dirty and often come in on a Saturday morning to pressure wash the entire balcony.

“This reflects badly on my business, while intimidating my staff and the general public.

“This has been allowed to drag on from one year to another but the time has now come to do something about it before Broome loses its image as a tourist mecca and sends businesses to their knees.”

Mr Griffiths said it would be too costly to install shutters around the entire veranda area, which would also be out of sync with the design of Chinatown.

Mess left at First National Real Estate Broome veranda.
Camera IconMess left at First National Real Estate Broome veranda. Credit: Broome Advertiser/Broome Advertiser, Jakeb Waddell.

Long-term Broome real estate business owner Tony Hutchinson said he was compassionate to the needs of people disconnected from the town and that a “carrot and stick” approach was needed.

“Unfortunately there are many alcoholics amongst them and amongst the homeless there are a few troublemakers that should be targeted,” he said.

“There is a tremendous lack of respect which results in littering, defecation, violence and so on, which is mostly alcohol related.

“There is tremendous support but some people have been taken over by the booze and will need to be held accountable for the unsociable behaviour and forcibly rehabilitated.

“We all have the right to quiet enjoyment of the place we live in and enough is enough.”

Sleeping bags left outside Westpac on the corner of Carnarvon Street and Napier Terrace.
Camera IconSleeping bags left outside Westpac on the corner of Carnarvon Street and Napier Terrace. Credit: Broome Advertiser

Broome Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Peter Taylor said the availability of alcohol in town had likely been an attraction for itinerants because of restrictions in their own communities, including Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing.

“We hope the liquor restrictions on top of the other actions will help mitigate this problem,” he said.

“Until then, I continue on a daily basis cleaning up after people defecating and urinating on my property in Chinatown.”

Mr Taylor said a number of positive measures had been introduced to minimise the impact on Chinatown businesses.

These included relocating the taxi rank from the front to the side of Paspaley Plaza and condemned dwellings — which had been used as an unauthorised camping ground for many years — being bulldozed at Kennedy Hill in Chinatown.

The Broome Liquor Accord is also on the verge of implementing voluntary liquor restrictions in July, similar to other Kimberley towns such as Derby and Kununurra.

The Broome Aboriginal Short Stay Accommodation was also opened in December, providing 80 to 100 beds for visitors attending the town for medical services, cultural or family business, shopping or socialising.

The facility, on the corner of Pembroke Road and Dickson Drive, has a zero alcohol and drug policy and charges a small fee to patrons.

Broome police officer-in-charge Sen. Sgt Les Andrews said visitors from surrounding communities were being dealt with daily.

“We are aware that there a number of public areas where transient people drink and set up temporary camp sites to get through the night, including verandas around Chinatown,” he said.

“We respond daily by seizing and destroying any alcohol and telling the people to move on from these known areas.

“While the visual aspect of this challenge leads many Broome locals to form the opinion that we have a permanent structure of homeless people in town, it is not the case.

“The problem predominantly involves itinerants from surrounding communities who come to Broome for services not available within their home communities.

“Most have access to accommodation whilst in Broome but choose to sleep out in the elements so that their extended families are not impacted by their level of alcohol consumption.”

Sleeping bags left stuffed in windows at the First National Real Estate Broome building in Chinatown and temporary sleep areas set up by transient people.
Camera IconSleeping bags left stuffed in windows at the First National Real Estate Broome building in Chinatown and temporary sleep areas set up by transient people. Credit: Broome Advertiser, Jakeb Waddell and Glenn Cordingley

Mr Taylor said there was no silver bullet to finding a solution to the issue and that it was critical for agencies and stakeholders to search for additional solutions.

“I have no doubt the current situation is causing many visitors to leave Broome with bad impressions of what they see in town,” he said.

“It is not a good look for a tourist town.”

Shire of Broome president Harold Tracey said the issue has been a priority over the past two years.

“It is certainly very challenging, but the Shire has made more progress in this space than what we have ever seen because we do not tolerate this behaviour,” he said.

“The issue we have is that these people are coming from communities with strict alcohol restrictions and have told us they are not seeking help with housing, they are just here for the grog.

“The first step for us in mitigating this is implementing the alcohol restriction trial this year, which shows that we are all prepared to make sacrifices for the betterment of our community.”

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