Sprinklers that were installed to deter homeless people from bedding down around the King Street Art Centre in Perth's CBD have been turned off after an outcry.
St Vincent De Paul Society was not alone in denouncing the move as lacking compassion.
A day after the story broke, director general of Culture and the Arts, Duncan Ord, said the system had been turned off as it "wasn't to specification", producing more than an intended mist.
Mr Ord said the system was installed after complaints were received about homeless people urinating in the laneway, drinking alcohol and using drugs, swearing, being disagreeable when asked to move on and engaging in "general disagreeable, antisocial behaviour".
"There were people who were there constantly," he told ABC radio on Wednesday.
"In fact there was a tent pitched."
It had been a problem for around 18 months and there had been several attempts to organise alternative housing through the Salvation Army, Mr Ord said.
"The people that were staying there regularly said that they didn't want that kind of support," he said.
With the arts centre featuring a dance studio, many users were young females "so our concerns was the duty of care for them" and cleaners who were finding themselves "accosted" by homeless people trying to use the toilets, Mr Ord said.
"If this was a situation outside an education facility, I'm sure the public would justifiably ask the Department of Education to try to find a way of finding these people an alternative place," he said.