The new face of homelessness in Australia
Homelessness is something many of us are exposed to on a day-to-day basis. It’s a confronting picture, and even more so when we really think about the circumstances that caused it. I’d like to think we all ponder how we can help in some way, but often this feeling of powerlessness takes over and we simply do nothing at all. I can certainly say I’ve been there in the past.
Yet an eye-opening moment occurred for me when my then nine-year-old son asked me whether the homeless lady outside our local supermarket would be safe at night and how she would go to the toilet, which wasn’t something I’d ever considered.
The fact is, the rate of homelessness in Australia is growing rapidly, and it shouldn't have to be our children who are asking these questions.
Another sad fact is that this lady at the supermarket is becoming the new face of homelessness in Australia.
Fact from fiction
So, first thing’s first, we need to dispel the myth that homelessness is merely 'sleeping rough' on the streets.
This is the homelessness we most often see, and this is the homelessness we are told to avoid throwing our loose change at for fear it'll simply go towards drugs and alcohol.
Sadly, the majority of homelessness situations occur behind closed doors and out of sight of the general public.
On any given night, only six per cent of Australians classified as 'homeless' can be found on our streets. The others are bundled up in their cars, crashing on friends' couches, in temporary accommodation, or even fearing for their lives in a house they can no longer consider safe due to the persistent threat of violence from their partner or family member.
Homelessness is a systemic issue, and I strongly believe that given women over fifty are becoming the fastest growing demographic of homeless individuals, some of the key contributing factors are domestic violence and a lack of financial literacy.
Funnily enough, these two key drivers of homelessness in women are something we are still not seeing strong government initiatives in.
Women and homelessness
I’d like to refer back to the woman outside the supermarket. We’re seeing it more and more often, and it’s a sad reality that women are now the primary battlers of homelessness in our country.
Homelessness Australia findings reveal that the number of Australian women over fifty who lack a permanent and safe housing option, and consequently fall into the homeless category, has doubled since 2013.
To add to this, I’ve read some increasingly troubling stories and statistics involving the strong link between abuse and homelessness. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, for example, recently found that an average of 36 per cent of individuals seeking homelessness services in Australia are victims of domestic violence.
Women who flee abusive households often have little to no money, no accommodation and young children to support. The situation is immensely challenging, and immensely sad.
A heartbreaking thought brought to my attention is that the right to housing extends far further than simply the right to a roof over one's head. It is the right to safety, security, adequate facilities, and so much more.
A woman living in a domestic violence household does not possess all of these rights. So, it's time to start considering these women also as victims of the rising trend of homelessness.
Help make a change
In light of all this, I feel deeply called to do my bit to stop homelessness in its tracks. I personally believe that when we find anything in society unacceptable, we can become part of the solution by engaging in the cause.
This June 21st I will be digging out my thermals and participating again in the Vinnies CEO sleep out.
I'll be sleeping out to help to support every homeless Australian, who I believe should have the rights to shelter and stability every night.
Consider this my personal invitation to join me by donating to my campaign.
Together, as a community, we can all be part of the solution to eradicate homelessness in Melbourne.