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Homelessness activist and father-of-12 Lanz Priestley dubbed ‘Mayor of Martin Place’ dies aged 76 

Homelessness activist and father-of-12 dubbed the ‘Mayor of Martin Place’ where he set up tent city and soup kitchen dies aged 76

  • Homelessness activist set up a tent city and soup kitchen in the Sydney CBD
  • Died after suffering a brain bleed last month, his family announced Tuesday
  • 76-year-old left job working for a cosmetic brand to dedicate life to homeless 


A homelessness activist and father-of-12 known as the ‘Mayor of Martin Place’ for setting up a tent city and soup kitchen in the Sydney CBD has died at the age of 76.

Lanz Priestley – who set up the 24-7 Street Kitchen and Safe Place – died after suffering a brain bleed last month, his family announced on Tuesday.

He famously left his job working for a major cosmetics brand to dedicate his life to the homeless and started living on the street so he could better understand the challenges they face.

In 2017, Mr Priestley said he had spent at least six months a year living rough in Sydney since 1991. 

Lanz Priestley (pictured right ) lived on the streets of Martin Place for six months a year since 1991. He has died at the age of 76

Lanz Priestley (pictured right ) lived on the streets of Martin Place for six months a year since 1991. He has died at the age of 76

His family announced his death on Tuesday morning as they paid tribute to a ‘selfless being’.

‘His work has helped, inspired, and united so many people throughout the world,’ the family said in a statement on Facebook.

‘Nothing defined how hard he worked. Although it is time for Lanz to finally rest, his contributions will continue to live on.’

His friend Freya Strom said Mr Priestley was rushed to hospital last month after suffering a brain bleed.

She said at the time the plan was ‘to keep him stable’ before then transferring him to another hospital for surgery.

Mr Priestley told Daily Mail Australia in 2017 he gave up his comfortable corporate life because he ‘wanted to know what was going on on the streets’.

His family announced his death on Tuesday morning as they paid tribute to a 'selfless being'

His family announced his death on Tuesday morning as they paid tribute to a ‘selfless being’

‘I want to know what’s working from the point of view of the guys on the streets – because they’ve had absolutely no say in the programs that are run to help them.

‘The programs run today by NGOs and the Government are very much about maintaining self interest.’

Priestley began working with the homeless alongside his brother in 1964, aiding a group of men who were drinking methylated spirits in the park they crossed on their way to work.

Mr Priestley left his job working for a major cosmetics brand to dedicate his life to the homeless

Mr Priestley left his job working for a major cosmetics brand to dedicate his life to the homeless

‘We got them soup, and then we got them blankets, and then we got them a house, then we got their friends houses, and later on we organised squats and business collectives that took homeless people off the street,’ he said.

‘We’ve done a lot of things in New Zealand, in London, in Brazil, here. 

‘I worked for a major cosmetics company for 10 years. I’d be going to a launch, with people from the modelling industry there, and afterwards I’d go down and sort out the homeless guys.’ 

Mr Priestley began setting up resources for the homeless in Sydney’s Martin Place in 1991.

Mr Priestley set up resources for the homeless in Sydney's Martin Place in 1991 and used crowd sourcing to build his collective

Mr Priestley set up resources for the homeless in Sydney’s Martin Place in 1991 and used crowd sourcing to build his collective

His operation became built primarily on crowd sourcing, with the occasional one-off donation from a company.

He revealed his chief aim was ending homelessness. 

He said while the awning previously available in Martin Place was a big draw card, so was its proximity to the department of housing. 

‘I wasn’t about to tuck their dirty little secret out of sight. I’m not going to expedite their convenience,’ he said.


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