Inside Sydney’s Tent City

July 31, 2017

Located on one of Sydney’s most prestigious streets is a very exclusive place to stay.

There’s a hot breakfast to start the day and chef cooked meals in the evening. The dining is alfresco, the security 24/7 and the view, of some of Sydney’s most historic buildings, is sublime.

But this is no Intercontinental or Shangri-La hotel; a room won’t cost a week’s wages. In fact it won’t cost anything at all.

That’s because this is Sydney’s tent city in the iconic Martin Place, directly opposite the Reserve Bank.

And it’s part of a furious blame game between the state government and City of Sydney council with the latter saying the camp is the “inevitable consequence of housing affordability in our city”.

Indeed, scrawled on one of the tents are the words, “For many this is what affordable Sydney housing look like.”

At least 35 tents stretch from one side of the street to the other; the organisers estimate two more are put up every day.

Sharply dressed commuters, streaming from the station to the street’s many skyscrapers, dart between the tents like pin balls in an arcade machine.

Nigel Blakemore’s tent stands in the middle, shining silver beneath the street lights.

“I was the kind of person who would walk past, be annoyed, and ring the council and say ‘when will you move these bloody people on?’” Mr Blakemore tells news.com.au.

“I was kicking goals, I was living a life.

“It wasn’t until I fell into the abyss and became homeless that I reflected on what kind of person I was”.

News.com.au talked to people living in the tents who used to be retail managers and telephone sales staff.

Mr Blakemore used to be a high flyer in the media industry living in Hong Kong with his wife and son.

“I’d been there for 14 years and then I went through a very acrimonious divorce. I had immigration issues and when I came back my mum died — my life just fell apart.

“I didn’t have suicidal tendencies but I couldn’t find a way over the mountain before me.”

He was found a place on one of Sydney’s most notorious housing projects but it was so dangerous he feared leaving his room.

“I’m happier here [at the camp].”

Mr Blakemore said the camp is a “community of equals”. But he acknowledges that some are more equal than others.

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