This week is Homelessness Week. The week is annually coordinated by Homelessness Australia to raise awareness of homelessness.
Homelessness is a social and humanitarian crisis that we need to be concerned about. At present, in Australia over 116,000 people are homeless and 195,000 are on waiting lists for social housing. Homelessness is not reducing but growing but funding does not meet the need. 1 in 3 people are turned away from homelessness services due to a lack of resources. This is a national crisis.
There are so many myths about people experiencing homelessness:
- Most people who are homeless are not “rough sleepers” i.e. sleeping in the open or in improvised shelter. Only 7% of those who are homeless sleep “rough”. Others sleep in cars, crisis accommodation or “couchsurf” with friends or relatives.
- Those who are experiencing homelessness are not necessarily drinking in public places or engaged in other anti social behaviour. Being homeless and engaging in anti social behaviour are two different things. Some engaged in public drinking already have accommodation but choose to drink in a public space as drinking at home can threaten their tenancy;
- Those who are homeless do not necessarily suffer from a mental illness or have substance abuse issues. Homelessness is a much more complex than one issue. it is often the result of a number of competing and complex issues such as: shortage of affordable housing, lack of availability of rental accommodation, domestic and family violence, intergenerational poverty, financial crisis, unemployment, economic/social exclusion, severe mental illness, exiting state care, exiting prison and overcrowding/housing crisis.
Although homelessness has a large impact on local communities legislation and governament policy does not include local government as a partner or participant in working to solve the problem. The responsibility rests with state and federal government.
All is not beyond hope. There is so much each of us can do to ease the crisis and to help provide a solution. So what can we do?
- Lobby local councils to develop formal homelessness policies that treat people who are experiencing homelessness with respect and dignity;
- Lobby local council to become involved in the provision fo affordable housing. This could be achieved by the local government authority partnering with a social housing provider to build affordable housing. Council’s role could be as simple as the provision of land. Councils could also take proactive action by having a requirement that housing developments dedicate a proportion of constructed housing to affordable housing;
- Join the Everybody’s Home Campaign at http://www.everybodyshome.com.au
- Approach local elected representatives to advocate for: increased funding to crisis services, affordable housing, increase the level of Newstart, real employment growth initiatives
- Support local food cooperatives and
- Volunteer with some of the local support services.
we can all work together to make homelessness history