Keeping homeless people safe in public places

The Protocol for Homeless People in Public Places provides guidance on what contractors, volunteers and staff employed by government organisations should do if they come across people who appear to be homeless. It also includes information on how to help a person access support services if they need or request them.

The protocol applies to public places such as parks and outdoor spaces accessible to everyone. It doesn’t apply to private property, or property that is not generally accessible to the public.

Principles of the Protocol

The protocol principles are based on homeless people having the same rights as any other member of the public to be in public places.

Homeless people come from diverse backgrounds and have a range of needs. These should be considered in any response, for example, by exercising cultural sensitivity when engaging with Aboriginal people and people from different cultural, linguistic or religious backgrounds.

The principles of the protocol also acknowledge that many people who are homeless have complex needs, such as mental health and/or drug and alcohol issues, which may result in behaviour that is seen to be antisocial.

History of the protocol

The NSW Government introduced the protocol to help organisations ensure homeless people are treated respectfully and aren’t discriminated against because of their homeless status.

The protocol was first developed in 1999. It was updated and endorsed in 2012 by government organisations that have an operational presence in public places or provide services to homeless people.

Protocol resources kit

Guidelines and training materials have been developed to support state-wide awareness of the protocol.

  • The Protocol Guidelines for Implementation assist government organisations to implement the protocol. Each organisation is responsible for deciding how it applies the protocol within its own policies, procedures and resources.
  • The Protocol Facilitator Guide supports facilitators to implement an education/awareness program on the protocol.
  • This Protocol Participant Guide introduces the protocol to new and existing staff of NSW Government organisations who work or come into contact with homeless people. It is also useful for non-employees of these organisations (for example, contractors and/or security staff) who come into contact with homeless people while at work.
  • The Protocol Presentation allows team leaders and managers to introduce the protocol to a group of people in a face-to-face setting.
  • The Protocol wallet card is a 2-sided, card-sized document with important contact numbers for staff of NSW Government organisations to print and carry in case they need to support a homeless person while at work.
  • The Protocol brochure is a 2-sided, A4 document for NSW Government organisations to print and circulate to staff, including contractors.
  • The Protocol poster is a 1-sided, A3 document for NSW Government organisations to print and display for staff, including contractors, to familiarise themselves with the protocol.