In a prosperous country like Australia homelessness should not be a problem in 2019.
Even though the root causes of homelessness are complex, in the country of the fair go we should always be able to lend a helping hand and get people back on their feet.
It’s a problem that affects just over 100,000 people across the county, which equates to filling the MCG every night with people that have nowhere to call home. In 2010 the Australian Government, in agreement with all State and Territory governments committed to some national targets around homelessness. These included halving homelessness by 2020 and to effectively end rough sleeping in the same timeframe by offering supported accommodation to those that require it.
Recommitting to Targets
But just six months out from that deadline the problem is only getting worse. In the past year the nations homeless population has grown by 14%.
Karyn Walsh is the CEO of Brisbane based not for profit Micah Projects, which runs a range of services in the community including the Home for Good program. Speaking with 96five Ms Walsh said that this year’s National Homelessness Week was the perfect opportunity to recommit Australian governments to these targets.
“It really just shows that if we don’t attention to meeting these targets things get worse. We need to put the whole picture together and say how are we going to break this cycle? Too many people are trapped in poverty, and homelessness is an extreme end of that poverty spectrum.”
Homelessness is a complex issue that can affect anyone. No one is immune from the possibility with some of the causes including housing affordability, long term unemployment, family breakdown, mental health issues and substance abuse.
“Many people have had constant experiences of trauma so domestic violence of course is one of the key drivers of homelessness.”
Matt Prater is the pastor of New Hope Church in Kelvin Grove and runs the King’s Table Soup Kitchen. It’s been running for five years and aims to provide a sense of community to those who are experiencing homelessness.
“One of the biggest problems with homelessness is isolation. What they need is community so we have two mini buses that head out to 12 shelters around the inner city. We bring them in and not only do they have a physical meal but we try and catch them before they fall too far down.”
Matt says that often those experiencing homelessness can get stuck in a downward spiral. For this reason New Hope offers a money course and help with budgeting, an addiction course and access to rehab facilities, as well as counselling services.
“They feel isolated, alone and rejected; this can develop into desperation which can then lead to addictions, prostitution and crime.”
“We need a shift in thinking about the homeless in our community; they need love, they need time and of course they need support and every one of us can do something.”
Karyn Walsh also adds that homelessness can make a person abandon hope.
“It’s absolute survival mode, so there’s this constant level of stress. People feel that very acutely so this impacts on their ability to work or even look for work.”
To help raise community awareness around the broader issues of homelessness, Micah Projects are running a series of events this week in the suburbs of West End and South Brisbane.
These include a Homelessness Week Community Give-away at Bunyapa Park in West End on Wednesday 7 August, from midday to 3pm where Micah Projects will be distributing new, donated clothing, blankets, toiletries and other good quality items directly to people in need.
Micah Projects will also participate in the CafeSmart initiative through their social enterprises’ the Hope Street Café and Hope on Boundary Café. On Friday 9 August, a dollar from every coffee sold at both the cafes will be donated to Street Smart’s Action against Homelessness.
As well, a People’s Market will be held on Saturday 10 August at the Hope on Boundary Café in Boundary Street, West End, where a free brunch will be served between 8.30am and 11.30am.
Micah Projects provide services and opportunities in the community to create justice and respond to injustice. If you’d like to find out more about volunteering contact them here.
The King’s Table Soup Kitchen runs every week offering a three course meal to Brisbane’s homeless, making them feel welcomed and loved. If you have some time available on Fridays between 11am and 2pm you can find out more about volunteering here.