By: Jennifer Haig
Right now, over 5800 people in Brisbane are struggling with homelessness. What can we, as good neighbours, do to help in this crisis?
Maybe it’s a teenager running away from a bad home environment. A mum who fled with her two kids to escape domestic violence. A new immigrant turfed onto the street after being unable to find work.
Australians can find themselves falling through society’s cracks for any number of reasons, and once there, it’s extremely difficult to break the cycle.
“The biggest stigma is that it’s the homeless person’s fault; when people blame the person, that’s probably the most painful thing.”
Dee, 56, Homeless near Mullumbimby
The stress of losing one’s home, coupled with the poor living conditions and frequent breakdown of family relationships can leave a homeless individual suffering severe psychological trauma. On top of this, homeless people often report feeling completely invisible and cut-off from the rest of society. This social isolation is especially harming, and over time, can place people in danger of developing life-long issues with physical health, addiction and mental illness.
Unfortunately it is society’s most vulnerable groups; those with mental illness, victims of violence, and families experiencing instability, who are at the highest risk.
Homelessness in Queensland: The Stats
In Queensland, 46 people out of every 10,000 are experiencing some form of homelessness*. Within this population indigenous people are highly over-represented, accounting for approximately 20% of homeless persons, while only making up 3% of the total population.
Despite public perceptions, homelessness doesn’t always look like ‘sleeping rough’.
According to the ABS, ‘a person is homeless if they do not have suitable accommodation alternatives and their current living arrangement:
- is in a dwelling that is inadequate;
- has no tenure, or if their initial tenure is short and not extendable; or
- does not allow them to have control of, and access to space for social relations.’
Under this definition, in Brisbane alone an estimated 5813 people are currently homeless.
Map created by ABC News in CARTO
Use the interactive map above to search location for your suburb
(e.g. Newmarket, 4051) to see the homeless population in your area.
Hope and help for those who need it most
Image courtesy of The Salvation Army, 2018
Although the stories are individual, the problem is societal, and it takes a village to help. This is where Paul Maunder, and his team at Brisbane Streetlevel Mission come in. A second generation Salvo, Paul works tirelessly to bring encouragement and support to some of Brisbane’s most vulnerable. Paul and his team provide meals, chapel services and, perhaps most importantly, a community for people who otherwise would feel isolated and alone.
This September Brisbane Streetlevel Mission took it one step further, by completing an epic 9 day ride across the eastern coast of Australia. Travelling over 1000km from Sydney to Brisbane, the Ride for Home less is an effort to raise much needed awareness and funds for an issue close to Paul’s heart.
Paul [Front, centre] and the Ride for Home less Team
The initiative has been an unprecedented success; so far raising over $80,000, which will be used to provide supported, affordable housing options to help during the critical transition from homelessness to independent living. For Paul, it’s all about making a practical impact, that extends beyond just a bed for the night.
“We are seeing lives transformed! We desperately want people to know that they are valued, accepted and loved. We want to build communities that provide a place of belonging and grace, that feels like family. Where people can grow, discover their purpose and fulfill their potential.”
Paul Maunder, 2018
What can you do to help?
While we may not all be able to ride for 9 days straight, there are several ways the average person can help out. Donating directly to the Ride for Home less to help them achieve their goal of $100,000 is a fantastic place to start. You can also support all the valuable projects the Salvation Army runs by making a one off donation here, or signing up to contribute year round.
Alternatively, you can donate something even more valuable – your time.
“Come along and join us for a meal. Come along and get to know someone. Come along and encourage someone. Pray.”
Paul Maunder, 2018
In times of crisis, we need all the love and support we can get. Through something as simple as listening with an open mind, you can provide the helping hand someone may need to pull themselves out of adversity, and start them on the journey to rebuilding.
After all, everyone needs a place to call home.
Special thanks to Melinda & Paul from Salvation Army for their time, help and ongoing commitment to helping disadvantaged Australians.
To hear more stories from Australia’s homeless checkout the No Fixed Address series published in the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/aug/07/the-big-stigma-is-its-the-homeless-persons-fault
For the original ABC Homelessness map with accompanying article: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-20/homelessness-mapped-australia-by-suburb/9551556
For a breakdown of the ABS census report on homelessness visit: https://www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au/about/homelessness-statistics, or http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/PrimaryMainFeatures/2049.0?OpenDocument for the report in its entirety.
Interested in volunteering with Brisbane Streetlevel? Reach out to Paul at https://salvos.org.au/brisbanestreetlevel/contact-us/