(Homelessness Australia, 2018)
Home means very different things to different people.
If you asked me, home means comfortable living with both my parents and my brother under a roof with four walls.
Others might say it’s living in a little apartment in the city, or out on a farm in the Wheatbelt.
But there are some, more than we may like to think, that think of home as…nothing. If they’re lucky, they might have an overpass to shield themselves from the weather. But some don’t even have that.
Homelessness Week 2018 is almost over, and we need to be more aware of the men, women, and children who are living on our city streets, starved and struggling.
I’m sure we’ve all been there. We see someone sitting outside a McDonalds in peak hour foot traffic, and a whirlwind of thoughts go through your mind.
Should I give them money? What if they spend it on drugs or alcohol? What I they’re lying and just trying to make a buck?
And these are all legitimate worries. West Australian social worker Michael Shaw has been working with the homeless for 13 years and feels extremely passionately about the issue and the people he works with.
“Having the ability to assist those in need is really rewarding, and I really focus on having people’s best interest at heart to resolve some of the serious issues they’re struggling with.”
“As a social worker I see a lot of cases surrounded by domestic violence, mental health, and family break ups, all of which are things that can lead into homelessness.”
11600 people have been forced to the streets to suffer through Australia’s harsh winters this year, with around 18000 of these aged under twelve years old. The question we need to be asking is why. Why are there children out there suffering, and what can we do to help?
“Predominantly people end up in homeless situations due to issues within the family, whether that’s domestic violence, the breaking down of relationships, or child abuse.”
“Unemployment and underpayment are also big contributors to homelessness unfortunately.”
In a recent press release, the Department of Human Services’ Community Engagement Officer Jo Efaraimo spoke of some of the work her department is doing to help these people in need.
“We visit refuges and community centres to connect people who are homeless, or live at risk.”
“We build trust with people so they feel comfortable enough to talk about their situation and refer them to the most relevant support services.”
In answer to the questions and doubts that go running through our heads, Shaw recommends we support the organisations that support the people.
“There are so many agencies like soup kitchens and clothing donation boxes that do great work, so giving them the support they deserve is certainly a great way to help the cause, whether that’s by donating items or using a little elbow grease in kitchens.”
Doing these little things can help remove the stigma around homelessness and those who suffer from it, because they’re all just like us, with likes, dislikes, passions, and dreams.
That has been the goal of Homelessness week this year: to raise awareness yes, but also to support each other where we can.
“The theme for the week was ‘ending homelessness together,’ so it really did focus on us standing together and asking ourselves, “how can we bring about change.” It’s a community effort.”
There are so many resources available to broaden your knowledge of this prevalent issue, many of which are free to access at your fingertips.
“In terms of the community, sites like EntryPoint Perth and Crisis Care contain a lot of information. The Department of Human Services website is obviously a great resource too.”
“If people are ever in need, all they have to do is walk into one of our officers and ask to speak to a social worker, or can visit the Homelessness Advisory Services site for lists of people and organisations that work to help.”
“People can always call 132 850 if they need to talk to someone.”
Homelessness is becoming a big part of our country’s image and that’s something that we can change.
It’s something that has to change.