24 December 2016 - THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FESTIVE SEASON




THE OTHER SIDE OF THE 
FESTIVE SEASON

G'day folks,

Christmas Eve is a good time to be reminded of those who do it tough, for whatever reason.  I live in the State of Victoria, one of six states and two territories that make up Australia. Melbourne is the capital of Victoria, whose population is currently 5.791 million people, and Australia's population is 24.5 million people. However, we have an increasing number of homeless people; those who will not care if it is Christmas. No, they will be too busy surviving. So, notwithstanding all the media about refugees across the globe, we have our own share of displaced people right here on our doorstep, and the figures for this state, my State, are a disgrace in 2016. Here are some facts ...




A recent survey in 2004 suggests over 4,000 people in Melbourne are physically homeless. 

Homelessness is not a choice that people make, it happens. We as a community have a social, moral and ethical responsibility to care and foster its vulnerable members.

In a culture that endears itself and measures successful people with being good, law abiding, kind, generous, in order to succeed ; what messages are we sending to those individuals who also possess these same qualities, who find themselves marginalised in ever increasing numbers. So it does beg the questions; how just is our society? Is it indeed fair and equitable? 

Homelessness is a universal journey, and is not necessarily by definition just about shelter, it is an intrinsic state of unrest. 



 Homelessness is defined as when a person is left without a conventional home and lacks the economic and social support that a home normally affords. He/she is often cut off from the support of relatives and friends, and has few independent resources. Often the person has no immediate means and in some cases, little prospect of independence even more so if you have a mental illness.

It’s almost 20 years since the Richmond Report and the community sector is yet to see the recourses they were promised. Since the de-institutionlisation of mental health services, community care is focused on home care; however a reliance on this is clearly deficient considering that a high percentage of the homeless also have a mental illness.

The numbers of homeless people in Victoria has increased by 13.8 percent from 17,840 in 1996 to 20,305 people in 2001.

A separate survey was conducted as part of the Counting the Homeless 2001 report examining marginal residents or people likely to be homeless living in caravan parks.

Any analysis of these homelessness figures should consider this report in combination with the general figures.

If the marginal resident in caravan park figures are added to the numbers of homeless people, the total for Australia is 122,768 people. The total figure for Victoria is 23,712 people.



 What is Homelessness?

Homelessness in Australia is often referred to as a three layered situation.

Primary homelessness

Is the term applied to those without conventional accommodation –
this could mean sleeping rough or living in a car.

Secondary homelessness


Is when people move frequently from one place to another, such
as with couch-surfing or staying in a refuge.

Tertiary homelessness

Is when people have accommodation but it is considered unstable,
such as living in a caravan park or rooming house



How many people are homeless in Victoria?

There are over 22,000 people that are homeless or marginally housed in Victoria, and of these, about half are young people under 25 years of age. In 2011, 68,500 women, men and children accessed homelessness services in Victoria. Almost 60% of homelessness service users are aged under 25.



What are the main causes of youth homelessness?


There are many reasons why young people experience homelessness, or become at risk of homelessness.

These reasons can include:
Family or relationship breakdown
Family or partner violence
Abuse and/or neglect
Family homelessness
Unemployment and poverty
Lack of affordable housing

In December 2011, over 18,000 young people contacted homelessness support agencies like Frontyard for assistance. Statistics show that the main reason for these young people experiencing homelessness was housing crisis (18%), followed by relationship or family breakdown (17%) and domestic and family violence (15%).


Lack of sufficient income
Lack of support in leaving state care
Transitioning to adult employment and
education services
Mental health issues
Alcohol or other drug issues

  



























Now, here is an anecdote of one of my experiences with homeless people. 



Normally, I spent Christmas day at my folk’s house. It was always a great day, and one of the few days when I caught up with the rest of my family. One year, I decided to forsake my Christmas festivities and offer my time to homeless men at Ozanam House, a Catholic institution that cared for homeless men. I turned up prepared to day anything and was gob smacked to find so few volunteers. Other than me, another seven people had also offered their time.

     Prior to dinner being served to approximately 150 men, I heard a loud noise and saw one particular inmate growling loudly at another guy. Spontaneously, I stepped into the fray and intervened. The guy who was growling looked mean and angry. His opponent looked similar. They were arguing over the seating arrangements. However, because it was Christmas Day, I spoke sternly to both of them, reminding them that we were volunteers and that it was a day to be merry and cheerful. I then suggested that they shake hands, sit down and enjoy a wonderful meal. Both men, who looked like hardened homeless men, glanced at me, shook hands and sat down.

     For the next three hours we worked our bums off, serving beautiful meals to the homeless men. It was a hectic time but very rewarding. Before I left, the angry, grouchy guy approached me and shook my hand.
     ‘Merry Christmas,’ he said. ‘Thanks, mate.’
     ‘You’re welcome,’ I said.
     I finally left Ozanam House late in the afternoon and drove home feeling very hollow. I was certainly glad I’d offered my time, but knowing there were so many homeless people in my country made me wonder why we called it the ‘Lucky Country.’





Clancy's comment: Mm ... That is just a snapshot of a wider problem in this country, and the world for that matter. I can think of lots of money that has been wasted by our government in recent times; money that could have been used to provide affordable housing. One example comes to mind. It is one that still leaves me breathless. Twenty-five senior public servants from our capital, Canberra, went to Paris to discuss ... Wait for it ... HOW TO SAVE MONEY! Yep, you heard it right. Why not stay at an Australian city and spread the money within our own economy? Nope, they chose Paris, and that trip cost us $250,000. 

Gasp!  And, I hope those mongrels have been severely reprimanded and demoted. Then again, I guess our politicians have been their role-models, so what can we expect?

Anyway, spare a thought for those who are doing it tough this Christmas, especially the women and kids fleeing from domestic violence. 

Me? I will be helping out at a community Christmas dinner that we have every year for those who have no one to share Christmas with. There should be about 100 - 150 people there. Should be fun. 

I'm ... as always ...