Today the local Police in my area called out for the community to view the homeless among us with empathy. I want to take this a step further. It is time we stopped seeing homelessness and those homeless as a problem but as ab opportunity. An opportunity to become a civil society and build a stronger, safer community.
Where do we start?
Changing our attitude to homelessness is the starting point.
Let’s be honest and stop using euphemisms. People who do not have a safe and secure roof over their head are homeless. Separating them into homeless and itinerant creates a false hierarchy. They are homeless.
Local government can make the greatest change in attitude. Faith based and charity organisations providing food, clothing and emotional support are not enabling those who are homeless but providing them with the support to survive and to be treated with kindness. They need to be able to go where the homeless are and not prevented from being in CBD or tourist areas.
Homelessness is a local government issue. Not just a state or federal government matter. Homelessness can have a negative impact on tourism, local business, social amenity. It impacts on visitors and residents who may become fearful in visiting areas frequented by homeless people. It is a matter for councils- if they want to create strong communities.
Councils can also help by working with housing providers to create housing options. This could involve the provision of land for housing or to even build social housing themselves. The provision of affordable, safe and secure housing is the first step in someone moving out of a cycle of homelessness. Once housed they can then access services and support to assist them in maintaining their tenancy and getting back on their feet.
A council acting in this way provides a valuable input into building a stronger economy as construction creates necessary employment. This in itself, during tough economic times, helps to rebuild local economies and communities.
In my local community there are over 2000 applicants waiting for social housing. There is a high need for safe and secure housing. The provision of housing is a necessity to reduce homelessness and prevent those at risk from becoming homeless.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
The reduction of poverty in all its forms is the first of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Australia is a signatory to these goals. Reducing Homelessness would start to address this goal. Once a person is housed they can be safer, we can be safer and they can start to contribute to the community in a positive way.
Let’s take this opportunity to reduce homelessness and build stronger community.