Chasing the Norm

Australian academic and blogger on politics, international relations, and culture

Tag: Homelessness

No place like home

A welcome announcement from the Government:

The Federal Government has allocated $12 million to boost emergency financial assistance for vulnerable groups affected by the global financial crisis.
The new funding will target charities that help the homeless, single parent families and Indigenous groups.

The funding coincides with the release of research by the Federal Government showing 34 per cent of Australians believe their financial situation has deteriorated because of the economic downturn.
About 21 per cent of them said they had been unable to pay bills, while 15 per cent had been forced to ask for help from friends and family.
Ms Macklin says charities and support agencies have seen a changing demographic this year.
“This research we’ve released today shows that people in more traditionally middle income families have also been doing it hard, particularly as they’ve lost their jobs as a result of the global financial crisis,” she said.

Homelessness_fly_away

While the ‘green shoots’ of economic recovery have been much lauded (and spooked our RBA), it’s worth remembering that many people in this country are yet to see a return to fortune. Having survived the GFC, many will be looking grimly ahead at the ‘season of joy’ that threatens to leave them feeling very financially exposed. The end of the year period brings with it both reduced work, and expectations of parties, presents & dinners, all at great cost. While our liberated economy has had the flexibility to reduce hours instead of firing staff, this also means that those we consider employed today may not be earning a great deal, especially those with young kids. Most will make it through, but we can expect an increase in those who will need a little bit of help, and some for whom homelessness is a real risk. Each day in Australia about 100’000 are homeless, though only 1/10th of those are on the street, with many many more forced into temporary accommodation, such as friends couches, or motel/caravan short stays. Some of course can be given all the enticements in the world, but will still choose to sleep rough and ‘free’, but that is a very small % of the homelessness problem.

Thankfully however we seem to have a Federal Government that is taking the issue seriously (unlike its predecessor). In a move that surprised, but pleased many one of the first acts of the Rudd government in Jan 2008, was to announce a renewed effort to tackle homelessness in Australia. In December of that year, the White Paper The Road Home, was released. The government pledged itself to two highly ambitious goals. (1)Halve homelessness by 2020, and (2) Provide shelter for those rough sleepers who want it by 2020. In August 2009, the Minister for Housing Tanya Plibersek released an update offering figures, which whilst not impressive are at least encouraging. Each state has it’s own details, though the $20m for the ACT, is very welcome. Canberra’s prosperity both enhances the wealth of those in secure employment/housing, whilst making it significantly harder for those at the fringes to get by. Where the GFC saw prices drop for renters across the country, in Canberra rent prices reportedly went up.

This is a government still a little too bound up in process over progress for my liking, creating a new independent council on homelessness, and $11.4m for Homelessness Research. However, they seem to act in good faith, with the PM’s conscious Therese Rein apparently quite serious about the issue. Assuming this is a minimum three term govt, and the funding/attention continues, such structures and (initially) slow work could build into a significant apparatus for dealing with homelessness in Australia. The problem is still there and very significant, and to some extent with the likely slow recovery, and costs of the season of good tidings, it may in fact get worse. But it’s nice to see a government that is at least talking about the issue and committed to change. It’s so easy to spend all your time on a blog like this criticizing those in power, but sometimes the best way to encourage good behaviour is through praise rather than blame. So well done Rudd & Plibersek. Now get back to work :).

That said, this is also an issue the general public not only can get behind, but must if we are to tackle it. It is Anti-Poverty week, with lots of activities being organised around the country, and there are many good charities to donate to such as Anglicare and St Vincent de Paul who both do a lot of work to help the homeless.

Image by Flicker User D.C.Atty used under a Creative Commons Licence