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Meshel Laurie slams The Block renovations after claims ‘gentrification’ displaced the homeless

Sunday night’s finale of The Block has prompted renewed criticism of Channel Nine’s decision to renovate Melbourne’s notorious Gatwick Hotel.

TV and radio personality Meshel Laurie led the charge of criticism on Twitter condemning the multi-million dollar transformation, which saw a former homeless refuge turned into luxury apartments.

While some viewers of the popular reality TV show were impressed by the renovations, others like Meshel were left angry and disappointed.

‘Sad about the Gatwick. Thinking of people I knew who died in there’: Meshel Laurie slams The Block renovations after claims ‘gentrification’ displaced the homeless

Disappointed: The Project panellist said she knew past residents personally and that their struggles affected her

Disappointed: The Project panellist said she knew past residents personally and that their struggles affected her

‘Sad about the Gatwick. Thinking of people I knew who lived in there before. Thinking of people I knew who died in there before. Sad,’ Meshel tweeted on Sunday.

One of her Twitter followers soon replied: ‘The people who used to call Gatwick home are the most vulnerable in our community e.g. struggling with mental health and addiction, who now have even less places to find a bed and roof over heads. It may not have been nice but it was their home.’

Another social media user wrote: ‘It’s disgusting what has happened to many of the people who were forced out. It was a hard winter.’

Before and after: Once described as a 'house of horrors', the Gatwick has been associated with Melbourne's criminal underclass for years and has provided shelter for the city's down-and-outs, addicts and prostitutes. Pictured left before the renovation and right after

Before and after: Once described as a ‘house of horrors’, the Gatwick has been associated with Melbourne’s criminal underclass for years and has provided shelter for the city’s down-and-outs, addicts and prostitutes. Pictured left before the renovation and right after

Unimpressed: Meshel's followers shared their own frustrations over the renovations

Unimpressed: Meshel’s followers shared their own frustrations over the renovations

Struggle: One Twitter user said the homeless faced a brutal winter after being forced out

Struggle: One Twitter user said the homeless faced a brutal winter after being forced out

However, not everyone agreed with Meshel’s assessment.

Another Twitter user pointing out that St Kilda’s ‘house of horrors’ was once a hotbed for drugs and crime.

‘We urgently need more affordable / emergency housing for homeless people, but places like the Gatwick are not the answer – they contribute to the problem,’ they wrote.  

‘I’ve reported on homelessness and the system for close to a decade. I know of many people who were terrified to stay at the Gatwick and left to go back on the streets.’

Meshel responded: ‘Cool, well I know plenty of people who chose to stay there because they were close to services, had lockable doors and had lived in the area off and on their entire lives.’

Different views: One fan disagreed with Meshel and pointed out that Melbourne's 'house of horrors' was once a hotbed for drugs and crime

Different views: One fan disagreed with Meshel and pointed out that Melbourne’s ‘house of horrors’ was once a hotbed for drugs and crime

Hitting back: Meshel did not back down and reiterated her opinion 

Hitting back: Meshel did not back down and reiterated her opinion 

'There's a vulnerable older man on my train looking for the Gatwick - where does he go now?' The Block producers have long been accused of 'displacing' the vulnerable and homeless residents of St Kilda by renovating the Gatwick hotel into luxury apartments. Pictured:  host Scott Cam

‘There’s a vulnerable older man on my train looking for the Gatwick – where does he go now?’ The Block producers have long been accused of ‘displacing’ the vulnerable and homeless residents of St Kilda by renovating the Gatwick hotel into luxury apartments. Pictured: host Scott Cam

Back in August, when The Block first premiered, viewers vented their frustration on Twitter over the ‘gentrification’ of the severely run-down hotel and the displacement of its down-and-out residents.  

One viewer tweeted: ‘When my family first came to Australia, we lived in The Gatwick – driven by economics, not choice. Now I get to watch wannabe celebrities make the place inhabitable for insider traders, stand-up comics and others with deep enough pockets to displace the undesirables.’

Another wrote: ‘[It’s] hard to watch The Block this year knowing the true history of The Gatwick. Let’s not forget the residents haven’t disappeared, they’ve just been moved on.’ 

One Twitter user even claimed they had encountered ‘a vulnerable older man on [the] tram looking for the Gatwick’, adding: ‘Do you know where else he can go for rest and care now the Gatwick has been closed and turned into multi-million dollar flats for The Block?’ 

Where will they go? Many viewers took to Twitter (above) to express their anger and disappointment over the 'gentrification' of the severely run-down hotel and the displacement of its down-and-out residents

Where will they go? Many viewers took to Twitter (above) to express their anger and disappointment over the ‘gentrification’ of the severely run-down hotel and the displacement of its down-and-out residents

The moral outrage did not stop there, with some viewers criticising the contestants’ reactions to walking through the deteriorating building for the first time. 

One tweet read: ‘The Block sounds great tonight. “Let’s go into a building where people down on their luck lived until recently and make fun of how s**t it is.”‘ 

Another viewer wrote: ‘Is it making anyone else cringe that the contestants are disgusted by the state of the Gatwick? Like poor people are so gross!’

One fan asked if the program was ‘going to mention that vulnerable people had no choice but to live in these conditions’. 

'Poor people are so gross!' The moral outrage did not stop there, however, with some viewers criticising the contestants' reactions to walking through the deteriorating building for the first time

‘Poor people are so gross!’ The moral outrage did not stop there, however, with some viewers criticising the contestants’ reactions to walking through the deteriorating building for the first time

Described as a ‘house of horrors’ and ‘hotel hell’, the Gatwick has been associated with Melbourne’s criminal underclass for years and has provided shelter for the city’s down-and-outs, addicts and prostitutes.

After it was announced The Block would be filmed at The Gatwick, reports resurfaced about the 58-room hotel’s history as a hotbed of villainy. 

In January last year, ‘leaked police data’ obtained by the Herald Sun revealed a litany of serious crimes – including drug offences, rapes and aggravated burglaries – had taken place between the hotel’s rotting walls during a six-month period in 2016. 

The venue has also been the site of several grisly murders dating back decades. 

The Gatwick, which first opened its doors as a private residential hotel in 1937, began its descent into infamy in the ’70s when it was bought and repurposed into a boarding house offering dirt cheap accommodation.

New owners Ronald and Vittoria Carbone envisioned the Gatwick as an affordable destination for poor, disenfranchised people based on the principle that ‘everyone deserves to be treated with respect’. 

However, in the late ’90s, after ownership of The Gatwick passed from Vittoria to her twin daughters Rose Banks and Yvette Kelly, the alcoholics and junkies of yesteryear were replaced by more dangerous clientele when ice hit the streets of Melbourne.

Despite the building being in a state of disrepair, it is understood Rose and Yvette were reluctant to sell the property to Channel Nine in a reported $10million deal. 

Shocking: On Sunday's season premiere of The Block, excitement turned to disgust for the contestants as each unit revealed horrific conditions after years of neglect and criminal activity. Pictured: A dead rat seen on the floor of the St Kilda rooming house

Shocking: On Sunday’s season premiere of The Block, excitement turned to disgust for the contestants as each unit revealed horrific conditions after years of neglect and criminal activity. Pictured: A dead rat seen on the floor of the St Kilda rooming house

Better get started! The contestants (pictured) are tasked with transforming the dilapidated Gatwick into eight luxury apartments, which will subsequently be auctioned off

Better get started! The contestants (pictured) are tasked with transforming the dilapidated Gatwick into eight luxury apartments, which will subsequently be auctioned off

On Sunday’s season premiere of The Block, excitement turned to disgust for contestants such as Bianca Chatfield, 36, as each unit revealed horrific conditions after years of neglect and criminal activity.

Fellow contestant Sara Vale, 31, was so repulsed by a pungent odour coming from soiled bed linen, and she even came close to vomiting.

Stepping into a room with husband, Hayden, 45, she cried: ‘It smells like cat p**s!’

‘Is that mould?’ Hayden asked, while Sara responded, ‘Get me out of here!’

‘I don’t want to touch anything and it stinks,’ contestant Carla Dziwoki, 35, added.

The contestants are tasked with transforming the dilapidated Gatwick into eight luxury apartments, which will subsequently be auctioned off.

Poor state of affairs: The Gatwick, which first opened its doors as a private residential hotel in 1937, began its descent into infamy in the '70s when it was bought and repurposed into a boarding house offering dirt cheap accommodation. Pictured: Bathrooms in the Gatwick

Poor state of affairs: The Gatwick, which first opened its doors as a private residential hotel in 1937, began its descent into infamy in the '70s when it was bought and repurposed into a boarding house offering dirt cheap accommodation. Pictured: Bathrooms in the Gatwick

Poor state of affairs: The Gatwick, which first opened its doors as a private residential hotel in 1937, began its descent into infamy in the ’70s when it was bought and repurposed into a boarding house offering dirt cheap accommodation. Pictured: Bathrooms in the Gatwick

Going downhill: In the late '90s, after ownership of The Gatwick passed from Vittoria Carbone to her twin daughters Rose and Yvette, the alcoholics and junkies of yesteryear were replaced by more dangerous clientele when ice  hit the streets of Melbourne

Going downhill: In the late ’90s, after ownership of The Gatwick passed from Vittoria Carbone to her twin daughters Rose and Yvette, the alcoholics and junkies of yesteryear were replaced by more dangerous clientele when ice hit the streets of Melbourne

Last goodbye: Despite the building being in a state of disrepair, it is understood owners Rose and Yvette were reluctant to sell the Gatwick to Channel Nine in a reported $10million deal

Last goodbye: Despite the building being in a state of disrepair, it is understood owners Rose and Yvette were reluctant to sell the Gatwick to Channel Nine in a reported $10million deal

House of horrors! The Block contestants are shown climbing the creaking steps of The Gatwick upon their arrival at the renovation site

House of horrors! The Block contestants are shown climbing the creaking steps of The Gatwick upon their arrival at the renovation site

Speaking to TV Tonight earlier this year, The Block producer Julian Cress claimed that he hoped the renovation would be a ‘legacy’ project that will transform the area.

‘My hope is, on top of making a great TV show, that we are also able to deliver an everlasting benefit to the community of St Kilda,’ he said.

‘And as a local myself I’m looking to a time in the future where people say, ‘The Block did something meaningful as a catalyst.’ So this series, for me, is kind of a legacy project.

‘My mother was born in Mary St. right behind us. So my family comes from here. It means a lot to me personally to be doing this project and to get it right.’ 

Hidden history: Following the season premiere, one fan asked if the program was 'going to mention that vulnerable people had no choice but to live in these conditions' 

Hidden history: Following the season premiere, one fan asked if the program was ‘going to mention that vulnerable people had no choice but to live in these conditions’ 

'We hope to deliver an everlasting benefit to the community': Speaking to TV Tonight last Thursday, The Block producer Julian Cress claimed that he hoped the renovation would be a 'legacy' project that will transform the area. Pictured: Contestants Hans and Courtney

‘We hope to deliver an everlasting benefit to the community’: Speaking to TV Tonight last Thursday, The Block producer Julian Cress claimed that he hoped the renovation would be a ‘legacy’ project that will transform the area. Pictured: Contestants Hans and Courtney

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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