“Most of us are only two paydays away from being homeless”. It’s a sobering thought isn’t? Just two pay cycles without an income and any one of us could become homeless.
It doesn’t matter what labels we put on the homeless such as itinerant, they are still homeless. Even more sobering is that only 7% of those homeless are the visible homeless ie those sleeping rough. There are many more who “couch surf” with friends or even sleep in their car.
The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the already growing problem of homelessness in our communities. With businesses closing, relationships deteriorating, family units breaking up many of us are at risk of becoming homeless. It impacts all sectors of our community. So what can we do about it?
While a simplistic response would be to take a homeless person into our home to live under our roof this is not a realistic response. But the individual can do a great deal. Each one of us can lobby our local political representatives to provide more social housing. A letter or petition is such and say action to take. We could also volunteer for one of the local homelessness services. This could be in a shelter or in an outreach service.
While homelessness responses sits with state government in Australia other levels of government can also provide a proactive response to end homelessness.
For example in 2008 the Commonwealth Government committed to halving homelessness by 2020. The approach was to include greater early intervention to prevent homelessness from occurring, improved homelessness service provision and an increase in social housing. However, this approach has been abandoned by subsequent governments. The current government missed an opportunity to include social housing construction as part of its economic recovery strategy in response to COVID-19.
Often local Councils will deflect the issue of homelessness by clinging to the mantra that it is a state and federal issue, not a local government issue. However, homelessness impacts all of us where we live and local government can do a great deal to reduce homelessness. This could be as simple as a basic homelessness policy outlining how they will respond when staff encounter homeless people in the community. Councils have influence with other levels of government and can advocate on behalf of the community to local members and government. A taskforce could be established, chaired by council and including relevant stakeholders to address local issues. They could partner with housing providers with council providing land and planning guidance to provide social housing. Council could partner with the Tiny Homes Foundation to provide tiny houses as a response to homelessness as has been done in Gosford (NSW).
We can all do something to reduce the impact of homelessness. After all at any time it could be you or me who is homelessness.