13 October 2012 - World Homeless Day


Copyright Clancy Tucker (c)


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Quote of the day:


"Lie down with dogs and wake up with fleas!"


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World Homeless Day


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G'day guys,


The 10th of this month was World Homeless Day. Now, have a good look at the above photograph which I took in Laos four years ago - a beautiful country of seven million people. Who are the kids? They are street urchins - homeless kids. The oldest was eight and the youngest was five-years-of-age - one girl and four boys. How did I find them? Mm ... they found me. One afternoon I was sitting with two friends in a restaurant on the banks of the Mekong River near Vientiane when the kids appeared from nowhere. They strolled around the restaurant searching for scraps of food left by previous customers, ravenously poking every morsel of rice into their mouths. Sadly, one of the waiters tried valiantly to remove them from the restaurant.


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I noticed what was happening, called the kids over and asked a question for which I knew the answer: are you hungry? Fortunately I can speak Thai so the kids understood me. After a resounding, 'Chai!' (Yes!), I called a waiter over and ordered drinks and three dishes of food for them. I then asked the kids to sit at the table beside ours and wait. They sat quietly until the food arrived, looking somewhat surprised. In the meantime, one of my friends ran to a nearby shop and bought a bag of chocolate bars as well; stuff to keep them going when food wasn't available.


What happened? The waiter served their food some distance from the restaurant on some sandy ground and beckoned the kids to eat. I immediately approached the waiter and told him in no uncertain terms that the kids would be eating alongside us ... because they were my guests, and because I was paying. The kids ate their meal with pleasure whilst my friends and I viewed activities on the Mekong.


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CT photographing the Mekong (c)


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Busily taking photographs of fishing boats on the Mekong as you can see above, I was soon interrupted by someone tugging at my shorts. Looking down, I found the five beautiful kids smiling at me. Seconds later, they thanked me and bowed.  I returned the bow and my friends gave them the bag of chocolate bars. However, I did notice that their footwear, simple rubber thongs, had passed their use-by date. Knowing that these kids, like many others, travel long distances each day in search of food, I asked my girlfriend to take them to a nearby vendor and buy them some new sandals. The kids returned smiling with glee, proudly wearing their new shoes.


That night, as we were leaving a restaurant, I heard a piercing call, 'Farang!' (Foreigner!), and glanced behind me. It was the same five kids I'd fed earlier in the day. The youngest, a boy, was quite a character and very streetwise for his age. The kids approached me with beautiful smiles, and the youngest asked me if I recalled who he was. 'Of course,' I replied. His older sister quickly informed me that they'd only eaten one of the chocolate bars. They were keeping them for a treat ... or ... for when they were desperate for food.


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The mighty Mekong River


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I've met countless such kids over the years during my travels in South East Asia. However, poorer and emerging countries are not the only countries that have extraordinary numbers of homeless people. Sad, eh?


HOMELESSNESS


People who are homeless do not have access to the economic and personal support that a home normally affords. For some people, personal factors and social situations (including family breakdown, unemployment, drug abuse, gambling, mental health problems, domestic violence and poverty) culminate to cause them to become or remain homeless.

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People experiencing homelessness can be in a number of situations including sleeping rough, staying temporarily with friends or relatives, staying in emergency accommodation or hostels, or residing in boarding houses. And these situations may change from night to night. The homeless state may mean not all homeless people are captured in data collections, and furthermore, even when they are, their homeless state might not be obvious and may need to be inferred from other characteristics. As a result, the complexity of measurement has in the past prevented any comprehensive official count.


For one group in the homeless population, information obtained from government-funded specialist homelessness agencies, and compiled by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, showed that during the year 2008-09 there were 204,900 people (one in every 105 Australians) who received support at some point during that year. More females (62%) than males (38%) received support, while males were slightly more likely to have repeat periods of homelessness. The most common reason for seeking assistance was due to domestic or family violence (22% of support periods), relationship or family breakdown (10%) and other financial difficulty (8%). Due to changes in data collection methods, these estimates cannot be directly compared with previous years (AIHW 2010).

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Clancy's comment: what an appalling state of affairs for Australia - a country labeled the 'Lucky Country'. Lucky for who?


I'm ...



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