Backpackers stealing from homeless Down Under?

Cheap travelers are helping themselves to meals designated for Australia's homeless.

Published May 22, 2000 3:31PM (EDT)

The Matthew Talbot Hostel, a shelter for homeless men in
downtown Sydney, Australia, has a problem. According to a Reuters report,
up to 50 foreign backpackers a day are arriving on the soup kitchen's
doorstep looking for dirt-cheap meals that are meant for the city's needy.

The hostel offers A$1 meals (U.S. 59 cents), rooms for the night and
showers. But word of the shelter, which does not require identification,
spread fast among backpackers bent on stretching their vacation dollars as
far as possible. According to the report, it has even appeared in the "Cheap
Eats" sections of several travel guides.

Colin Robinson, homeless coordinator for the St. Vincent de Paul Society,
which runs the hostel, told Reuters that some backpackers have also been
found doing their laundry at the facility, which serves between 1,200 and
1,300 homeless men each day.

With the 2000 Olympics looming on the horizon this summer, Robinson and
his staff are worried that the backpackers' untoward frugality will simply
exhaust the shelter's resources. Staffers are now considering issuing
identity cards to the homeless, in hopes of screening out stingy travelers.

"We don't like the idea," said Robinson, "but at this stage we have to look at
a few options, particularly given the Olympics period, just to protect the
people who are genuinely homeless."

By J.A. Getzlaff

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