Recently someone asked me, why homelessness? Out of all the issues, the causes, the tragedies… why do you care so much about homelessness? My answer was simple… because a home is the heart of everything.
Being without one disadvantages you in so many ways. From meeting your most basic human needs, to having meaningful relationships and accessing support and employment. How can you eat and drink without a kitchen? How can you sleep without a bed? How can you complete a government form without a postal address? How can you be part of a community and get a job? The answer is you can’t.
Sure you can get a hot meal from a soup kitchen or the Vinnies Van. You can grab a few hours’ sleep on a friend’s couch. You can wash your clothes at the local laundromat, but these are not sustainable solutions. We know that homelessness is ‘hidden’. We don’t see the 15,000 people over the age of 55 sleeping rough in Australia on any given night. But what’s also hidden is the extent that being homeless impacts on your life.
Why do I care so much about homelessness? Because if we enable people to access safe, secure and suitable housing, we’re enabling them to not just ‘exist’ but to have a life. To move beyond meeting their most basic human needs, to having a ‘safe place’ from which they can begin to engage with the world again. To make friends, access services, volunteer and ultimately, get a job.
Having a home won’t cure an addiction or mental illness, but without one it’s near impossible to start to recover. During my time volunteering with Lifeline and the Vinnies Van I’ve seen and heard a lot. What’s stuck with me the most is that anyone can become homeless. It can happen so easily. That’s why I support the Vinnies CEO Sleepout on June 22. To donate go to www.ceosleepout.org.au
- Nieves Murray, Chief Executive of IRT Group