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The Protocol for Homeless People in Public Places (the Protocol) assists and guides government, non-government organisations, and private businesses to interact and engage with people experiencing homelessness, so they are treated respectfully, with dignity, and do not face discrimination. This includes contractors, volunteers, and security staff.

The Protocol also encourages and provides information on how to provide a response or deliver support to people experiencing homelessness if they need or request it.

The Protocol does not override existing laws or regulations, or the enforcement of those laws or regulations.

The Protocol applies to public places such as parks and outdoor spaces which are ordinarily accessible to the public including cars parked in public places such as on-street parking. It does not apply to private property, or property that is not generally accessible to the public.

Principles of the Protocol

The Protocol principles are based on people experiencing homelessness having the same rights as any other member of the public to be in a public place.

People experiencing homelessness have unique and diverse backgrounds, experiences, and needs. Any response should be positive, empathetic, and respect the person and their circumstances. Interactions should be trauma informed, person centred, and culturally appropriate behaviour and language should be used.

History of the Protocol

The NSW Government introduced the Protocol in 1999 through the Partnership Against Homelessness, a group of government agencies. The Protocol was developed to ensure people experiencing homelessness are treated respectfully, appropriately, and are not discriminated against due to their circumstances.

The Protocol was first implemented in the Sydney City business district areas during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, and expanded state-wide in 2002.

The NSW Legislative Assembly Committee on Community Services Inquiry into the Protocol for Homeless People in Public Places (2019-2020) found that the Protocol continues to act as an effective tool for guiding government responses to people sleeping rough. The Committee made recommendations to enhance the Protocol. DCJ incorporated the supported recommendations into the recent Protocol review.

The Protocol was updated in June 2022 through a co-design process with StreetCare, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre’s lived experience advisory group. Valuable input was also received from key subject matter experts.

Many non-government organisations and local councils support the Protocol and are encouraged to use it to guide their response to people in public places who may be experiencing homelessness.

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Last updated: 22 May 2024